Lawsuit Over Negative Yelp Review Has Unexpected Consequences

Like many businesses, Prestigious Pets, a pet sitting company in Dallas, Texas, is open to reviews on the crowd-sourced site, Yelp. Until a few short weeks ago, the company had a plethora of 4- and 5-star reviews and undoubtedly enjoyed the benefits of being a highly rated business. However, Prestigious Pets didn’t take too kindly to one negative reviewer and has decided to file suit. Now, those precious high-star reviews are getting drowned out by backlash from the Yelp community.

According to a report from Fox News, Robert and Michelle Duchouquette saw the positive Yelp reviews for Prestigious Pets and retained the company to take care of their dogs and fish while they were away on a trip. However, when they checked into their fish tank’s live video feed (who has this?) and saw the tank looked cloudy, they took to Yelp to voice their displeasure with the tank and some of the company’s billing practices.  The Duchouquettes were so upset about the experience that they left Precious Pets with the dreaded 1-star review. In response, Precious Pets filed suit against the couple for allegedly violating a non-disparagement clause contained in a contract the couple signed when retaining the company.  Prestigious Pets is seeking more than $6,700 in damages.

This is the classic case of not weighing the benefits of a “legal win” versus the negative repercussions of filing the lawsuit. Prestigious Pets has a total of 109 Yelp reviews.  Forty-eight of those reviews have come since news of the lawsuit broke. Of those 48, there are 43 1-star and 2 2-star reviews. Prior to the news, Prestigious Pets had 53 5-star and 5 4-star reviews. Doing the crude math, the filing of this lawsuit has brought Prestigious Pets’ rating from an overall average of 4.5 down to a 3 and that number continues to fall.  \Sure, Yelpers can read the reviews and discover that many of the recent negative reviews are mere reactions to the suit and not focused on the services provided. But, they can also see that the risk of a negative review is the possibility of accepting service of a summons and complaint. Not exactly the business model Prestigious Pets envisioned.