Pierce & Mandell, P.C.

11 Beacon Street, Suite 800
Boston, Massachusetts 02108-3002

Phone: (617) 720-2444
Fax: (617) 720-3693

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Pierce & Mandell Counsel Curt Dooling Quoted In Mass Lawyers Weekly

Tuesday, May 07, 2019
Attorney Curt Dooling

Attorney Curt Dooling was recently quoted in a Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly article about the applicability of anti-SLAPP statutes to statements made on websites like Yelp and social media platforms like Facebook. https://masslawyersweekly.com/2019/01/24/west-roxbury-dentist-dodges-fee-order-in-spat-with-yelp/.

In the case on which Dooling commented, DiNapoli v. Yelp, Inc., United States District Court Judge Dennis Saylor held that Yelp is not immune from all lawsuits and is not always protected by anti-SLAPP statutes simply because it provides a forum for customer reviews.

Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statutes are intended to protect individuals from harassing litigation and from the burden of defending against retaliatory lawsuits based on statements made in public forums. Although anti-SLAPP statutes provide broad protections against lawsuits based on petitioning activity, the DiNapoli case showed that there are limits to the types of lawsuits that can be dismissed based on anti-SLAPP statutes.

Anti-SLAPP statutes are also intended to protect individuals from retribution for speaking publicly or petitioning the government. Based on DiNapoli, large companies like Yelp may have a difficult time utilizing anti-SLAPP statutes to get claims dismissed unless they can show that their own petitioning activity is the reason for the underlying claim, rather than simply hosting a platform for others to make public statements.

Curt has litigated several anti-SLAPP cases and has prevailed in filing special motions to dismiss based on the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute, G. L. c. 231, § 59H. He has also successfully argued anti-SLAPP cases before the Massachusetts Appeals Court. He can be reached at cdooling@piercemandell.com.

Negative Internet Reviews: Respond or Not?

Monday, May 06, 2019

By Robert R. Pierce

Over the last five years, the firm has received many calls from business owners who have received negative reviews from customers, or in some cases, non-customers. “What should I do?” They ask.

More often than not, my answer is to do nothing. When a customer gives a one-star review about the service rendered, it is simply a matter of opinion and there is no legal recourse. Some business owners, particular restauranteurs, respond with harsh rebuttals, sometimes doing what is essentially a negative review of the customer. While PR and marketing is not the firm’s bailiwick, I find it unlikely that a negative rebuttal would help the business. An approach I do like, however, is when a business owner sincerely apologizes for the customer’s negative experience, and offers to the customer an opportunity to make things right.

But, what if the negative review is factually false, or, the reviewer was not even a customer? Then, a lawyer may have a role.

Making false statements that cause harm can be actionable as slander (spoken statements) or libel (written statements). Recently, the firm was contacted by a dental practice which received a negative review from a person who had never been to the practice. The motivation was unclear. This one star review certainly dragged down the rating of the practice, which had about 15 reviews. The firm sent a letter to the customer demanding that the review be removed, and it was. But, once again, getting a lawyer involved should be the exception rather than the rule. Could you file suit against a bad reviewer? Only in the most extreme case. Recently, a lawyer on Cape Cod received a horribly negative review on Facebook with numerous false allegations including that he bribed court officials and other attorneys in a number of cases. The lawyer and his firm sued the complainant in 2015, and the case went to trial in February 2019. The jury eventually awarded the aggrieved lawyer $100,000.00 in damages. Even then, this further emphasizes the need to file suit only in the most extreme cases, as the review and its effect lasted roughly four years until resolution.

What I hope business owners take away from this piece are as follows:

  1. Provide superb, friendly service, and you will receive great reviews.
  2. If you get to know a customer on a personal level, feel free to ask them to post a review.
  3. Don’t attack the reviewer. It only makes you look petty and often brings on more negative reviews.
  4. If the review contains demonstrably false allegations, then consider legal action.

Dennis M. Lindgren Becomes President of the Board of Directors of the Natural Resources Trust (NRT) of Easton, Massachusetts

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

On November 18, 2018, Pierce & Mandell shareholder Dennis M. Lindgren was elected President of the Board of Directors for the Natural Resources Trust (NRT) of Easton. The NRT’s mission is to educate as to the significant natural and cultural resources all around us, as well as to acquire and preserve land of special character for the benefit of the public. The NRT promotes a land ethic in the community through environmental educational programming for youth, while at the same time preserving Easton’s rural character and heritage. The NRT is steward to over 250 acres in Easton. Lindgren, a longtime resident of Easton and neighbor of the NRT, was honored to be asked to lead the NRT. “My wife and I have enjoyed the beauty of the NRT for over 10 years and have always admired the important environmental educational work the NRT does, not only with the children of Easton, but with thousands of children from towns and cities throughout Eastern Massachusetts. The NRT is the jewel of Easton and as its President, I look forward to leading it into the future as we undertake a major capital improvement campaign, as well as continued membership and fundraising development.” More information about the NRT and the great work it does can be found at the following link: http://www.nrtofeaston.org/

Pierce & Mandell, P.C. Hosts First Golf Clinic for Women

Friday, July 27, 2018

On July 12, 2018, Pierce & Mandell P.C. hosted clients, staff and friends of the firm at our first golf clinic for women at Tournament Players Club in Norton, Massachusetts.

Designed for both beginners and experienced players alike, the clinic featured three stations led by TPC professional staff. Each station (putting, chipping and full swing) afforded participants the opportunity to learn the rules and etiquette that revolve around that specific aspect of the game, as well as professional tips and individualized coaching.

The intention of the clinic was to create an environment for inexperienced players to learn the fundamentals of the game and become familiarized with different techniques, while more experienced golfers had the opportunity to refine the skills they had previously acquired. This allowed all participants the chance to further their interest in the game in a comfortable, and supportive team setting, serving also to integrate varying professionals from different walks of life.

Pierce & Mandell, P.C. hopes to host more of these clinics in the future.


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