Several months ago, we here at Abnormal Use wrote about a lawsuit filed by Prestigious Pets, a Texas pet sitting company, against a dissatisfied customer over a 1-star Yelp review. That lawsuit was filed in a Texas small claims court with the company seeking damages of around $6,700 for the customers’ violations of a non-disparagement agreement. At the time, we wrote about the negative repercussions the suit had on the company’s Yelp reviews with its overall rating dropping from a 4.5 to a 3 once the news broke.Apparently, $6,700 no longer seemed like enough damages. In turn, Prestigious Pets dismissed their suit and re-filed in district court, now seeking $1 million in damages. Now, that suit has also been dismissed, this time at the hands of the court.
According to a report from Consumerist, the defendants sought to dismiss the case on the grounds that it is a frivolous SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Specifically, the defendants relied on the Texas Citizens Participation Act which permits defendants in cases involving free speech to seek a dismissal within 60 days of service. Under the Act, when a moving party establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that the action is based on, relates to, or is in response to a party’s exercise of the right of free speech, the case shall be dismissed unless the plaintiff can establish by clear and convincing evidence a prima facie case for each element of the claim in question. Apparently, Prestigious Pets could not make such a showing and the case was dismissed via a one page, nondescript order. With the dismissal, the company is responsible for the defendants’ legal fees per the terms of the Act.
It may be too early to tell what, if any, effects this suit and Texas media fiasco may have on Prestigious Pets. As mentioned, when we first wrote about this story, the company’s Yelp rating had taken a huge nosedive with negative reviewers voicing frustration with the lawsuit. Today, many of those reviews appear to have been removed from Prestigious Pets’ Yelp page thereby bringing its rating back up to a cozy 4.5. However, if you think the company could just erase the negative reviews and move on, think again. Now, its page is adorned with this:
Not exactly the scarlet letter any company wants to bear.