A Parksville business was awarded $90,000 in damages after suing a “disgruntled customer” for defamation based on a pair of negative online reviews.
Longhouse Specialty Forest Products, owned and operated by Brian and Moila Jenkins, sued Tyler Ginther for $675,000, based on a review posted on Google in November 2017 and another review on Yelp in January 2018, according to court documents.
Ginther’s reviews accused Longhouse of defrauding and scamming him. He claimed the company intentionally charged his credit card $6,902 for cedar siding he did not want.
Justice Iyer found, in an Aug. 24 decision, Ginther’s reviews were defamatory because they were both false and malicious.
Ginther did not take down the posts when the plaintiffs asked him to do so in June 2018. They were not taken down until sometime in 2021, after the litigation started. He never retracted his accusations and maintained they were true throughout the trial.
Ginther met Brian Jenkins in November 2015 while Jenkins was doing “cold calls” in the White Rock area and the two discussed hemlock as an economical alternative to cedar for soffits and exchanged contact information.
Ginther made an order for hemlock soffits and cedar siding and paid a $7,500 deposit.
A few months later, two invoices were sent and Ginther’s credit card was charged $14,428.62.
Ginther was dissatisfied when the soffits were delivered and sent the product back. The soffits were then re-stained, delivered and installed.
After he noticed the credit card charge from Longhouse, Ginther demanded a refund of the charge for the siding ($6,902.07) plus an additional $1,000, which was his estimate of 50 per cent of the cost of re-staining the hemlock soffits.
“The two men later had a heated text exchange, which quickly escalated to crude insults,” the judge wrote.
Ginther complained to the credit card company, which investigated and ultimately dismissed the complaint.
About 16 months later, Ginther posted the first review.
Ginther’s defence was that everything he stated in his reviews was true. The judge disagreed.
“Mr. Ginther accused Mr. and Ms. Jenkins of deceit and fraud. These are very serious allegations that aimed at undermining the plaintiffs’ reputations as honest business people,” Justice Iyer wrote. “They are long-standing members of a small community. There is no question that his statements caused Mr. and Ms. Jenkins great personal distress.”
The judge found that since the reviews were online for several years, they could have turned off potential customers and harmed the business. He also found Ginther acted with malice and intended to damage the business.
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