Family Law

Family Law News 2018, Issue 1, Volume 40, No. 1

The Yelp Decision: A Follow-Up to My Article on Attorneys and On-Line Reviews

Stephen D. Hamilton

Stephen D. Hamilton has been an attorney for 22 years, with a practice devoted almost exclusively to family law for 20 of those years. He has been a Certified Specialist in Family Law since 2004. He is currently a member of the California Family Law Executive Committee, for which he is the Legislation Chair. He is a member of ACFLS and serves on the ACFLS Outreach and Amicus Committees. He is also chairperson of the San Luis Obispo County Family Law Section.

Yelp Inc. v. Superior Court, 17 Cal. App. 5th 1 (2017), recently decided by Division Three of the Fourth Appellate District, provides a nice post-script to my previously published article, "When and How to Respond to Online Reviews," which appeared in Volume 39, Number 1, Issue 1 (2017) of the Family Law News. In Yelp, an accountant, Gregory M. Montagna, received a scathing review on Yelp.com (hereafter, "Yelp") from a client, which he felt was defamatory. He filed suit, naming the person whom he believed had published the Yelp review as well as a Doe defendant. He then served a subpoena on Yelp requesting documents that could reveal the identity of the anonymous reviewer.

Mr. Montagna alleged that he had agreed to prepare what he thought would be a W-2 only income tax return for a fee of $200. After he completed the return, he claimed that it turned out to be more complicated than initially represented, so he charged a total fee of $400. The disgruntled client allegedly then posted the following review on Yelp:

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