A California personal injury lawyer was unhappy with a review posted by his former client on Yelp. The lawyer attempted to contact the client about it, but she refused to return his calls. The lawyer thereafter sued the client in April 2013 for defamation and other causes of action, sought damages and injunctive relief. The client failed to respond to the lawsuit and a judgment was entered against the client for $558,000.
A “ ‘ “default judgment conclusively establishes, between the parties so far as subsequent proceedings on a different cause of action are concerned, the truth of all material allegations contained in the complaint in the first action, and every fact necessary to uphold the default judgment.” ’ [Citations.]” (Gottlieb v. Kest (2006) 141 Cal.App.4th 110, 149.)
The court also ordered Yelp, although not a party in the underlying lawsuit, to take down the offending review. Yelp refused and brought a motion to vacate the judgment (not sure why it didn’t limit the motion to vacating the removal request only). The court denied the motion and Yelp appealed. On June 7, 2016, the appellate court in large part* upheld the lower court’s order and addressed Yelp’s assertions of free speech rights, etc. and why they do not apply to defamatory statements and provided legal support for enjoining non-parties. Opinion here. Yelp has appealed to the California Supreme Court which has elected to hear the case in the coming months. Should be an interesting one.
* The appellate court “remanded to the trial court with the direction to narrow the terms of the removal order in the January 2014 judgment by limiting it to the specific defamatory statements that were listed on exhibit A of that judgment.”