Do you wonder why lawyers often have a bad reputation? If so, consider the ridiculous Yelp lawsuit alleging that Yelp’s reviewers are employees of the company.
Yelp is an online review site and local business search service. Consumers are encouraged to write reviews of, and rate their satisfaction with, various products and services.
Historically, controversies have concerned whether Yelp punishes businesses for not advertising on the site (which Yelp denies). More recently, business owners have complained about Yelp’s automated tools for removing false or inappropriate (e.g., paid) reviews based on unpublished criteria.
Panzer v. Yelp was filed on October 22, 2013 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. The class action suit alleges that the vast majority of reviewers are unpaid employees providing writing services for Yelp.
In my opinion, this suit is ridiculous on its face. The fact that a reviewer voluntarily writes many – perhaps thousands of – reviews does not mean that Yelp has employed that individual for that purpose.
However, the key to understanding the suit is to realize that it is a class action. Class actions are a potential gold mine for successful plaintiffs’ lawyers and the few plaintiffs named in the suit. They receive large awards if the suit is successful, while other members of the class receive a tiny payment.
Regrettably, in the U.S. anyone can sue anyone at any time for any reason. And, as the ridiculous Yelp lawsuit shows, a litigator with a bit of time on his hands and some creativity can up the ante by filing such a suit as a class action.
Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law +1 510-547-0545 dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.