Streisand Effect Still Works: Vancouver Roofing Company Hit With Negative Reviews After Suing Over A Negative Review

from the how-do-you-not-expect-this? dept

Last week, KGW8 had an incredible story about how a couple in Vancouver, Washington were sued after leaving a 1-star review for Executive Roof Services (ERS). The defendants in the lawsuit, Autumn Knepper and Adam Marsh, were (reasonably!) annoyed about the treatment they received from the firm after their landlord had asked ERS to check out the roof to the house, after the couple found it leaking. The experience they had with ERS was not great:

Knepper said she called the office and talked with the receptionist, who she said was rude from the time she answered the phone.

“She refused to give me any information. She said I would have to get it from the landlord. I asked to speak with the manager and she laughed at me. She told me I was verbally abusing her and that she was the office manager. She hung up on me,” said Knepper.

Marsh said he called ERS and had a similar bad experience with the woman who answered the phone.

“She was just super rude, told me that she was office manager and there was no one else I could talk to and hung up on me,” said Marsh.

So they each wrote a 1-star review on Google explaining what happened. Apparently, the owner of ERS, Michael Mecham, didn't take kindly to all of this. Again, according to KGW8:

“He told me that he knew where I lived. He said he had forensics guy and that he would gladly spend a hundred thousand dollars suing me,” said Knepper.

Knepper said the owner texted her and said the review needed to be taken down before “more damages are done.”

Knepper said she called the police, which led to an officer asking Mecham to no longer contact the couple.

“We thought that was the end of it,” said Knepper.

But, instead, they were sued for defamation (the lawsuit was filed in Clark County, and it appears that the documents for the lawsuit are not readily available online or we'd include them here). The lawyer for ERS, David Bowser... um... doesn't seem to know what he's talking about. He first told a reporter from KGW that it wasn't about the review... and then seemed to immediately admit it was about the review:

Bowser said the couple did not hire ERS, the landlord did. Because of that he said they weren’t entitled to the information they requested -- a project report and timeline -- because they were not customers or clients of ERS. This is part of our exchange when we asked Bowser about the suit:

Cristin Severance, KGW: "Whether they're paying customers or not, shouldn't they be entitled to write about their experience? They said the receptionist was rude."

David Bowser, attorney: "It depends why they did that. If they were doing it merely to express their opinion, that's what other customers have done in the past. I don't have an issue with that. ERS doesn't have an issue with that. But when you cross the line and you use this forum to cause intentional harm to a family-owned business and hurt them and their employees and their business, you've crossed the line."

Severance: "How did they intentionally harm ERS by writing about a rude receptionist?"

Bowser: "They intentionally harmed ERS by posting one-star reviews for the purpose of getting a report they weren't entitled to."

That's... not how any of this works. At all. They have every right to write a review about their experience. Bowser seems particularly clueless about SLAPP suits. Washington just passed a new anti-SLAPP law, though technically it didn't go into effect until this weekend. But Bowser should maybe learn what that means:

Bowser argues this is not a SLAPP filing.

Bowser: “That is not what a SLAPP lawsuit is, a SLAPP is a motion. This is a lawsuit. The lawsuit asserts claims for defamation and for intentional interference with business expectancies,” said Bowser.

Wut? The "L" in SLAPP stands for lawsuit, guy. And this is a classic SLAPP. It's a lawsuit over obviously protected speech, and was clearly filed to try to silence Knepper and Marsh. When the reporter asked Bowser how is this not trying to silence someone, Bowser responded that this was "not something that they legitimately had a basis to give an opinion on." And, again, this is not how anything works. You get to give your opinion on anything you want. I get to give my opinion on this lawsuit -- which is one of the SLAPPiest SLAPP suits I've seen in a long time. You don't get to unilaterally declare that they can't give their opinion.

But, of course, even more incredible is that, here, the lawyer for ERS has now admitted that it was their opinion. And, I mean, you don't need to be even a terrible lawyer to know that opinions are not defamatory.

Either way, it's not difficult to see what happened next. KGW8 is reporting that the owner of ERS says he had to take down his website after receiving a ton of 1-star reviews. Not that anyone should condone leaving made up 1-star reviews, but how the hell did neither he nor his foolish lawyer realize how this was going to end up?

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Filed Under: anti-slapp, david bowser, defamation, free speech, opinions, reviews, slapp, vancouver, washington
Companies: executive roof services


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 1:07pm

    [Insert Nintendo Joke Here]

    Regard the Lawyer David Bowser, I'd just as easily make a Nintendo joke, but Nintendo would just sic a DMCA on me. 😁

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 1:15pm

    'That's not how you tank our company, THIS is how you do it!'

    'We don't believe they had a legitimate reason to tell people what a terrible company we are and what horrible customer service we offered so we went ahead and provided them a reason and gave them all the motivation they needed to make it as public as possible so everyone would know to stay as far away from us as possible.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 2:13pm

      You forgot the last line: “This is an excellent plan.”

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        TheDumberHalf, 26 Jul 2021 @ 3:19pm

        Re:

        Looks like Google and BBB have taken down all their negative reviews. Yelp just won't let you review anymore.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 5:15pm

          Re: Re:

          Bloody cowards, nice way for them to make clear that none of their reviews can be trusted I suppose if they're willing to wipe any critical ones.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            nasch (profile), 3 Aug 2021 @ 1:38pm

            Re: Re: Re:

            Bloody cowards, nice way for them to make clear that none of their reviews can be trusted I suppose if they're willing to wipe any critical ones.

            To be fair, these were reviews from people who had not used the company's services. So not really legitimate reviews.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              bhull242 (profile), 4 Aug 2021 @ 5:30am

              Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Define “legitimate”. I would argue that if a service affects more than just the direct customers, other to-be-beneficiaries’ reviews are valid.

              For example, say that Person/Company A manufactures their products (Product X) using a product (Product Y) sold by Company B. Person C then purchases Product X, but the internal Product Y fails. Even though Person C was not a direct customer of Company B, C still has a legitimate complaint about B’s product as the end-user.

              More relevantly for this case, say that a Hotel A hires maids from some Provider B to provide room service, and Person C stays at Hotel A for a few days and makes use of that room service. C can still post a review of B based upon the services of the maids at A. C was not a direct customer of B but of A, but C still benefited from a service that B provides and had direct contact with employees of B, so that review would be legitimate.

              Finally, and even more relevantly, a review of a company is a review of that company, not just some particular service or good that they provide, and speaking with people over the phone—be they customer or beneficiary or prospective customer—can be considered a service they provide. While the landlord was the user of the service involving fixing the home, the reviewers here were users of the Customer-Service service provided by that exact same company, and that’s what they were reviewing. As such, it would still be a legitimate review.

              To be clear, assuming that the company actually does have such a policy, it’s fine that they refused to give the couple any of the information—at least directly—as they were not the direct customer who enlisted the company. But that wasn’t what the complaint was about. The complaint was about the treatment they received, not the refusal to turn over the requested information.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                nasch (profile), 4 Aug 2021 @ 6:39am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Define “legitimate”.

                Having experience with the company / product / service. A review about a company based on reading about them in the news is not legitimate in my opinion, and apparently these review companies agree.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  bhull242 (profile), 4 Aug 2021 @ 7:26am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Okay, so I assume you’re talking about the ones posting reviews later. In that case, yes, they are not legitimate reviews, so the review companies were probably right to take them down in that context.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        bhull242 (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 3:30pm

        Re:

        “This is fine.”

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 26 Jul 2021 @ 1:42pm

    Bowser: “That is not what a SLAPP lawsuit is, a SLAPP is a motion. This is a lawsuit."

    Speaking of somebody needing a slap.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 2:00pm

    I dont want to laugh

    Tons of 1 stars?
    And to solve it, all they had to do would have been to respond to a few of them an apologize? OR explain the problem?

    These were renters?
    They have lives and would love to know Where and how long they would be doing a job? You arnt leaving the house OPEN to anyone, no matter how honest they may be. And leaving the roof open gives access to anyone that has a Nail puller.

    Be nice and tell them they need to ask the landlord, as they cant discuss any contract info.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2021 @ 3:10pm

      Re: I dont want to laugh

      In the alternative, the receptionist ^H^H^H office manager could have told them to have the landlord forward permission to the roofers to actually, y'know, discuss the issue with [list of renters].

      Concerns about privacy can be waived by those whose privacy might be affected.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 2:12pm

    Commence to facepalmin’.

    I don’t know who to feel worse for: the business owner, who thought suing over a bad review was a good idea; or the lawyer hired to file the lawsuit, who lost a case and ruined his own career in the span of a single interview.

    …oh wait, they’re both shitheads. I’m free to partake in some schadenfreude!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      jvbattlewood (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 5:11pm

      Re: Commence to facepalmin’.

      I have a little pity for the business owner.
      A decent lawyer would have pointed out the folly of pursuing it and saved him both money and embarrassment

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 11:07pm

      Re: Commence to facepalmin’.

      "the lawyer hired to file the lawsuit, who lost a case and ruined his own career"

      I wish I could believe that part.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Jul 2021 @ 9:38am

      Re: Commence to facepalmin’.

      or the lawyer hired to file the lawsuit, who lost a case and ruined his own career in the span of a single interview

      I dunno about that - seems like he's defining himself as one who will file cases he knows are bullshit. And there certainly is a market for simple-minded rubes who would hire him in an instant to get themselves fleeced...I mean, have their 'cases' heard.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Eric, 26 Jul 2021 @ 2:15pm

    So easy to fix this initially...

    Its amazing how all of this could have been so easily avoided and fixed...Owner of ERS: "Hey Adam and Autumn, just saw the review you left and want to express how sorry I am for the experience you had, I spoke with our office manager to make sure this doesn't happen again. It is our policy, though, to only share the details with the customer. I'll reach out to your landlord to see if we can send it your way, if not, then it would be best for you to connect with the landlord for the information" ... I'm guessing after that most people would modify or at least edit their review. How do people not know how to fix these things?!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 2:19pm

      Pride is a hell of a drug.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      tin-foil-hat, 26 Jul 2021 @ 8:59pm

      Re: So easy to fix this initially...

      Even if they didn't revise the rating/review, a response like that shows that the business cares.

      Most reasonable people accept that a business will have some negative reviews. You can't please everyone.

      Acting like an asshole usually ends up with the predictable outcome. They brought it on themselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 9:51pm

      Re: So easy to fix this initially...

      I'm willing to believe the "office manager" told the owner a much different story about how these people berated her & made her cry.
      I'm guessing she is some family members stupid child who thinks she has the power & well she claimed they were the mean ones so the family pride took over & now they are going to be paying a couple they sued for wasting their time & watching their entire business sink because Becki the office manager decided to power trip rather than just be polite.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2021 @ 2:32pm

    According to Washington State Jury instructions I found on Westlaw:

    To recover on a claim of tortious interference with business [relationship] [or] [expectancy],(name of plaintiff)has the burden of proving each of the following propositions:
    (1) That at the time of the conduct at issue,(name of plaintiff)had a business [relationship] [or] [expectancy] with a probability of future economic benefit for(name of plaintiff);
    (2) That(name of defendant)knew of the existence of that business [relationship] [or] [expectancy];
    (3) That(name of defendant)intentionally induced or caused the termination of the business [relationship] [or] [expectancy];
    (4) That(name of defendant)'s interference was for an improper purpose or by improper means, as defined later in these instructions; and
    (5) That the conduct of(name of defendant)was a proximate cause of damages to(name of plaintiff).

    I consider it extremely unlikely that ERS can meet that burden.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2021 @ 3:53pm

    To answer the parting question of how they didn't know their lawsuit would just result in the Streisand effect kicking in... Here is a simple fact. Assholes tend to live in relatively isolated bubbles. They are by their nature insulated from criticism and surrounded by praise and thus can't really cope like most reasonable human beings would other than getting really offended and grossly overreacting.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jvbattlewood (profile), 26 Jul 2021 @ 5:01pm

    Foregoing the obvious stupidity of the lawsuit and the Trump U. lawyer.
    The website is currently up and they still have a 4 star+ rating on Google.
    I get the impression that all is not as it seems in ERS land.
    Smells just a bit like someone is desperate for about $112,000
    for ( fill in the blank) and Bowser, like his Nintendo namesake,
    is only too happy to do something potentially unethical for the right cut.
    Of course, that's just my constitutionally protected opinion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Tanner Andrews (profile), 30 Jul 2021 @ 11:14pm

      Re:

      [executive roof services] still have a 4 star+ rating on Google

      Certainly one would wonder about whether Google handles paid advertising for Executive Roof Services, or whether they have other motivation.

      It is hard to believe that a company so bad that they have to sue over what appear to be accurate 1-star reviews actually deserve to have a 4-star rating. However, some rating services may skew the ratings, possibly in hopes of increased advertising revenue. I am speculating here and have no actual data concerning Google's rating services beyond the report quoted above.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 26 Jul 2021 @ 5:59pm

    The big question...

    Will ERS be able to weather the storm?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Jul 2021 @ 11:22pm

    But it's a family company!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Jul 2021 @ 1:29am

    While Yelp may not be universally good, I've found that looking at how a business responds to terrible reviews is more valuable than the actual reviews. A business who responds to negative reviews with a positive response is probably a good place to spend money. If the business responds with anger and denial steer clear.

    My only similar experience was a used car dealer who made non-specific threats about my truthful and specific complaints. I told him if he sent me one more message I was going to submit our entire conversation to the attorney general's office consumer complaint form and I never heard from him again. The review remains up 8 years later.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
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    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    david long, 3 Aug 2021 @ 8:34am

    polishing your public image through legal action

    wow, probably not the most cost effective process as simple respect and cooperation likely would have been a better approach, but maybe i am not up too speed on business management?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Steve, 20 Aug 2021 @ 9:19am

    Nitpick through the state bar regs and file a complaint on the lawyer. I know a guy who filed one over poor punctuation for "Lack of due dillgence". Since the lawyer continued contact with him he filed another complaint alleging the lawyer was attempting to intimidate him into dropping his original complaint. Then he wrote numerous negative reviews on the lawyer saying the lawyer had state bar complaints, which was now true. The lawyer ultimately resigned as the other party's counsel because it just wasnt worth the hassle.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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