Law Firm That Sued 20-Year-Old Crash Victim Over Negative Review Now Owes $26,831 In Legal Fees
from the stop-SLAPPing-yourself dept
After being insulted online by a 20-year-old student with back injuries resulting from a collision with a drunk driver, the Khuu law firm of Houston, Texas, claimed it "had no choice" but to
burn its already-questionable reputation to the ground file a $100,000+ defamation lawsuit.
Like many other entities, the Khuu law firm felt the best response to a negative review was to get litigious. Unlike many other entities, the Khuu Law firm presumably employed actual lawyers with actual knowledge of actual laws. Presumably. If so, it overrode this knowledge to engage in litigation featuring the internet's favorite tort: "Yelp review I didn't like."
According to Lan Cai -- the student who had the misfortune of initiating contact with Khuu -- a representative from the office showed up at her house unannounced and questioned her while she was still in her underwear. Shortly after making a bad first impression, the company made a bad second impression by ghosting its new client. Lawyers at the firm only seemed interested in engaging with Cai when they had a lawsuit to serve.
Backlash ensued and the Popehat Signal was (unofficially) lit. Houston attorney Michael Fleming picked up Lan Cai's case pro bono and has now obtained an anti-SLAPP judgment in favor of his client. Joe Mullin of Ars Technica reports:
Fleming filed a motion arguing that, first and foremost, Cai's social media complaints were true. Second, she couldn't do much to damage the reputation of a firm that already had multiple poor reviews. He argued the lawsuit was a clear SLAPP (strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Like many states, Texas has a law allowing for SLAPP suits to be thrown out at early stages of litigation.
Ultimately, the judge agreed with Fleming, ordering [PDF] the Khuu firm to pay $26,831.55 in attorneys' fees.
The news of the firm's loss has resulted in a second wave of one-star reviews at Yelp -- one of those side effects litigious entities fail to consider before lunging forward with "might makes right" legal bullying. At this point, the Khuu law office is best known for:
(a) mistreating a potential client with a broken back, and
(b) losing a lawsuit.
Neither of these is going to help it attract new customers. If it had just left it alone, its reputation -- while never stellar -- wouldn't have been destroyed completely.