Kinda v. CarpenterAnnotate this Case
After defendant bought the commercial building housing plaintiffs‘ rug cleaning business, disputes developed. The tenants complained that landlords behavior interfered with their business operations and amounted to a campaign of harassment and retaliation. The tenant obtained a preliminary injunction, enjoining landlord‘s construction activities exceeding a stated decibel level during business hours. Three consumer reviews criticizing tenant’s business subsequently appeared on the Internet site Yelp.com posted from different online aliases. Tenant suspected landlord was responsible and amended the complaint to allege defamation. Landlord successfully moved in limine to exclude the evidence related to the Yelp reviews on hearsay and authenticity grounds. The trial court later granted landlord a directed verdict on the defamation cause of action. A jury found that, although landlord had breached the lease agreement, no damages resulted. The trial court deemed landlord the prevailing party and granted his request for attorney‘s fees. The court of appeal reversed, holding that the exclusion of the Yelp evidence and the resulting disposition of the defamation cause of action was error and it is not clear that the outcome on the contract-based causes of action would have remained unaffected by the presentation of evidence on the alleged defamation.