Jury makes unexpected decision in Yelp defamation suit

FAIRFAX, Va. — The jury in the case of a Virginia homeowner sued for posting negative reviews of a contractor online has reached an unexpected verdict.

The jury deliberated for eight hours before determining that contractor Chris Dietz and homeowner Jane Perez had both defamed each other. Neither party has been awarded any financial compensation in the case and there will be no punitive damages.

The case was supposed to set a precedent for either the free speech of online reviewers or for the businesses to have a right to fight back against online reviews that are determined to be inaccurate.

The contractor seeking damages claimed the homeowner’s statements on Yelp and Angie’s List were not true and cost him clients.

Contractor Chris Dietz says the work he did at Jane Perez’s Virginia home was professional. She says she had to have it all redone and posted reviews of her experience working with Dietz online, comments that he says are lies.

Dietz asked for $750,000 in damages for the lost business he says her reviews cost him.

Attorneys for both sides earlier said the case will be tough for a jury to consider because of the complexity of dealing with defamation. They presented closing arguments Friday morning in the week-long trial that could further protect the free speech of online commenters.

The jury began deliberations about 10:30 a.m.

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