A hotel company near Chicago has sued Michael Gladstone and Liora Braun, a Massachusetts couple, for posting a negative review of its Carleton Hotel on Tripadvisor.com, a popular website dedicated to lodging reviews and booking travel arrangements. According to the posting purportedly shown in the lawsuit papers, the couple stayed at the hotel with their two small children for a few nights in April 2011. A month later, Ms. Braun posted the review on Tripadvisor.com. According to the lawsuit papers, she indicated that on “the third and final night of our stay we found a bedbug crawling on my husband during the night.” They reported it to the night manager and mentioned it again upon checkout. She further stated that four weeks after coming home, “a bedbug was found in our bed,” despite intensive cleaning of their clothes and throwing out luggage from the trip. The extermination and related activity that followed resulted in expenses to them of three to four thousand dollars.
The lawsuit alleges, however, that the report of bedbugs at the hotel was knowingly false and defamatory, that the hotel staff and a third party exterminator inspected the room and found no bedbugs, that Tripadvisor.com has 40 million users per month and that the posting has likely dissuaded potential guests from staying at the hotel resulting in lost business. The lawsuit alleges two counts of defamation, a claim for interference with prospective advantage, a claim for “false light invasion of privacy” and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.