The B.C. Supreme Court has ordered the “disgruntled consumer” who posted reviews on Google and Yelp accusing a business of fraud to pay $90,000 in defamation damages.
Tyler Ginther was sued for $675,000 by Longhouse Specialty Forest Products over the content of two reviews he posted in 2017 and 2018. The company claimed the reviews hurt its brand and affected them financially.
The judge determined that Ginther’s posts regarding a family-run lumber company were defamatory since they were both false and malicious, said the judge in the judgement published online on Wednesday.
The court was told that the reviews accuse the plaintiffs of being deceitful and fraudulent. They claim they conned Mr. Ginther by billing him for a product he didn’t order and created fictitious invoices to prove their duplicity.
When asked to remove them, Ginther refused, and the reviews stayed online until 2021 after the lawsuit was filed.
The initial Google review warned potential consumers to remain cautious, complaining that the company’s products and services were poor, delayed deliveries, and overcharged Ginther’s Visa.
The review reads, “I would strongly caution anyone from using Longhouse cedar products but if you do decide to risk using them…. Do not prepay this firm a nickel and take every precaution to protect yourself and your credit, they are fraudulent, cheating and deceitful and it starts at the top!!!.”
Another similar but lengthy Yelp post made the same accusations. Wherein Ginther says it was the first time he posted a bad review online.
The review said, “This company is not someone you can do business with, in all my years of doing business I have never come across someone who is unbelievably rude, cheats their customers on initial order, adds a fake order and then makes up a series fake invoices to cover his lies. BEWARE and DON’T TRUST THEM.
How did the conflict begin?
In White Rock, Ginther was constructing a house in 2015. He made a $7,500 deposit and placed an order for cedar siding and hemlock soffits. Ginther’s credit card was charged $14,428.62 for the order a few months after creating two invoices.
Ginther was dissatisfied when soffits were delivered and had returned them. They were re-stained, re-delivered, and eventually installed, but Ginther told the court he was still “very dissatisfied.”
Soon after that, Ginther told the company’s owner Brian Jenkins that he never ordered the siding and demanded the charge be reversed. He also demanded a refund of $1,000 due to his dissatisfaction with the soffits.
Then, Ginther claimed that he never ordered the siding and sought that the allegation is dropped from Brian Jenkins, the company’s owner. Due to his dissatisfaction with the soffits, he also wanted a $1,000 return.
If the refund is not processed, Ginther said he would report the charges as fraudulent to his credit card company.
The judge wrote that “Matters deteriorated from there.” “The two men had a heated text exchange, which quickly escalated to crude insults. Each gave as good as he got.”
Sixteen months after the first bad review was published, the second one appeared online three months after that.
The judge determined that the negative reviews could have turned away potential customers and harmed the reputations of the business’ co-owners, Brian and Moila Jenkins. The post remained online for several years and could have been seen by potential customers.
Ginther admitted that he posted the reviews to scare off potential customers. However, disagree with the company’s allegations regarding the extent of the harm to the company’s finances and reputation.
The company asked for $250,000 for general damages that the court found ‘excessive’ and awarded $60,000.
The judge stated the financial records did not confirm the owners’ assertion that they witnessed a 10% reduction in revenue due to the evaluations and requested $200,000 in compensation. Instead, the company was compensated $20,000.
While the judge determined that Ginther’s actions were motivated by malice, he was sentenced to pay the two owners $5,000 each.
Source: B.C Court
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