Woman sued $1,000 for negative Yelp review

Darla Miles Image
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Woman sued for bad Yelp review
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Darla Miles reporting in Staten Island

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A woman is paying a hefty price for her scathing criticism on Yelp.

This raises the question, how far does freedom of speech go when it comes to online critiques?

"What did you put on Yelp?" Eyewitness News asked.

"I said, 'Don't do business with Matt Gardnier of Staten Island. He is a con artist. He robs people for their money. He destroys their floors and he doesn't come back to you.' That's all I said and that's not a crime," said Emily Fanielli, Yelp reviewer.

Those are the words Fanielli wrote on Yelp that cost her $1,000.

"Obviously, they felt it was okay," Fanielli said.

This stems from work that was done in February. There are before and after pictures of the living and dining room floors where she said he ruined them.

She sued him in addition to writing a review.

"I lost a total of $700 that I paid him to do the floors, $695 to be exact and $2,600 to redo the floors. Now the judge wants me to pay a thousand. I'm not doing it," Fanielli said.

She said she wasn't happy. She won a $400 claim against Gardnier.

He counter-sued for defamation.

"She attacked me personally. That's the only reason why I sued her. Nothing to do with my company," Gardnier said.

Attorney Norman Siegle thinks this judge got it wrong.

"If this precedent stands, it could chill people from when posting their viewpoints and opinions, especially in a negative way. It may already be back firing," Siegle said.

This review was posted on Yelp Wednesday afternoon.

"Suing an old lady for leaving a bad review on Yelp, GG. now I will leave a bad review on you. Will you try to sue me? I dare you. Enjoy the one star. I wish I could leave a negative 10," the reviewer said.

"They think I am going after the first amendment and I'm not," Gardnier said.

"Tell the judge he can keep the $400. I don't need his $400. It's not a money object. This is my opinion. This is America. I should be able to discuss and say what I want to say," Fanielli said.