It's happened to all of us at one time or another.  We've gone to a business and gotten less than stellar service.  Sometimes, we leave a scathing review in the heat of the moment.

Even though you have a right to express your opinion, can a bad review cost you in Texas?

Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

The short answer is "yes".

Consider this: a business is often someone's livelihood. Bad reviews can do serious damage to a business's bottom line. Because bad reviews can cost a business money, you can end up being sued for a bad review.

It happened here in Texas.  Back in 2019, a Lubbock man left a negative review for a business he worked with from Ireland. He pointed out in his review that the business made an error that cost him $8000.

The business sued him and he ended up receiving a judgment of $60,000. The man said he never received a notice of a court date for the lawsuit, so the Lubbock judge automatically awarded the company the judgment, and by the time interest accrued he owned hundreds of thousands.

The court seized everything the man had. It ruined his life.

So, what should you know if you plan on leaving a bad business review?

Generally speaking, a business can sue if an online review is untruthful, libelous, slanderous, defames character, intentionally interferes with business expectancy, violates privacy rights, or breaches a contract.

Law, lawyer attorney and justice concept, male lawyer or notary working on a documents and report of the important case in the law firm
Ngampol Thongsai

In most cases, online reviews are protected as long as their statements are truthful. The old adage: "the truth shall set you free" could be amended in this situation to read "the truth shall set you free from legal ramifications of a bad online review."

To protect yourself from possible legal retribution for leaving a bad review, legal experts say you should consider:

  • What did you really experience?
  • What is your point of view?
  • Are you being fair to the company or the individual?
  • What suggestions can you make to improve the experience?
  • Who is really responsible for this experience?
  • Are there any important details that you've left out?
  • Can you back up all of your opinions and claims with proof?
  • Is there a way you can phrase your review as constructive criticism?

Before leaving an online review, take a time out.  Think before you write. Remember, you are going after someone's livelihood. Above all, ask yourself, is what I'm saying the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help me God?  If not, save yourself a lot of potential trouble and skip it.

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