The Houston lawyer who decided that he needed to show a reviewer that they “need to learn the consequences of their actions,” for a bad review must not have gotten the message that suing customers over online reviews is a terrible idea.
The act is usually dumb* and the consequences almost always counter to the interests of the business doing the suing. That certainly seems to be the case here where the law firm’s actions are being splattered over the local Houston news and he has been hit with a veritable torrent of bad reviews and comments. It will get worse if he loses the case.
The claims the lawyer is making are weak and his behaviors left a lot to be desired. He may have thought he could win this in a court of law or won by intimidation but he certainly won’t win this in the court of public reviews or public opinion. And if (more like when) he loses the legal case, the public perception of his legal capabilities, to say nothing of his integrity, will be questioned. I can’t think of worse outcome to befall a business.
Yelp may be disingenuous in their defense of free speech in highlighting businesses that sue customers over bad reviews but their highlighting of the behavior certainly serves Yelp’s interest and has its merits . Although in this case Yelp will have to wait for their Active Clean Up alert to be removed before they can add the Questionable Legal Threat alert. It is but one more reason why a business should be sure that there is no other avenue before pursuing a legal case and that the gains will far outweigh the losses.
The legal system is stacked against a review suit, the costs are high and the barriers are real. But I would never say never sue over a review. I think there are times when a competitor or an ex- employee or ex-spouse is behind it and the damage so great that the perfidy needs to be exposed publicly. But those situations are rare, even in the wacky world of reviews, and targeting a customer always appears to be an act of desperation.
This lawyer is going to get his reputational clock cleaned both socially and legally. And he inadvertently makes a great case why it’s almost never rational to sue over a bad review. At this point the lawyer should probably withdraw his suit before he is further embarrassed.
*Notice I didn’t say the attorney was dumb, I wouldn’t want to be sued. That is yet to be determined. 🙂