A remodeling client's negative online reviews that launched a controversial and heated defamation lawsuit have been pulled from the web voluntarily by the defendant.
The reviews were removed earlier this month, shortly after a Fairfax Couny, Va., returned multiple verdicts for both sides in the case of remodeler Christopher Dietz against customer Jane Perez. Asked why, Perez's attorney said "the lawsuit was about freedom of speech and freedom of speech won. ... [Perez] has nothing more to prove, and it is time to move on."
Perez's reviews in 2012 on several online sites regarding work that Dietz did for her launched the legal fight when she not only criticized him for shoddy work but also said that jewelry turned up missing from her home at a time when Dietz had the only extra key. Dietz sued Perez for defamation of character. A court denied Dietz's request that the criticism be removed but did order Perez to take down her implication that Dietz stole the jewelry. But then Virginia's Supreme Court reversed that order to pull the reviews and sent the case back to a lower court for trial.
Over the course of the legal fight, Dietz and Perez filed numerous counterclaims against each other over a variety of issues, including whether Dietz's lack of a valid contractor's license meant that his entering Perez's home for work amounted to trespassing. In the case's stalemate conclusion, the jury ruled that both sides defamed each other, but neither won any damages.Since then, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge David Schell granted a motion to strike the claim that Dietz trespassed, and Dietz's lawyer told REMODELING the unlicensed contracting charges that followed a September 2013 arrest had been dropped.
Whether Perez's reviews stay down remains uncertain. Dietz's lawyer said Dietz may file an injunction to keep the reviews off the web permanently.