Legal Question in Construction Law in California

Ways to warn others about a bad contractor

I am wondering if it is legal to report and/or expose bad contractors and bad contractor experiences online if we have the evidence to prove it? Also, are there any online sites setup to do this? Just wondering.

Asked on 4/04/09, 11:32 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: Ways to warn others about a bad contractor

It is legal to tell the truth, with a minor limitation that unnecessarily publicizing certain personal or embarrassing facts about an individual (example: disclosing the identity of a rape victim) can be tortious invasion of privacy.

Dissing a contractor could be defamation. Defamation by speech is slander; defamation in a permanent medium such as writing is libel. Both are torts and could result in a suit and possible liability for damages.

Truth is a defense to a charge of defamation. The problem is that there can be confusion between objective facts and subjective opinion. While truth is said "always" to be a defense to a charge of slander or libel, there can be exceptions. "I believe John Doe beats his wife" can be defamatory if John Doe doesn'r beat his wife, even if the speaker truly thought so.

All this is to say that I would be somewhat cautious about publicizing negative opinions about tradespeople. It's a good public service, but be careful to stick to defensible comments.

Finally, don't overlook channels where the risk of being accused of defamation is minimal, such as a report to a Better Business Bureau, the Contractors State License Board, or filing a suit against the contractor, if that is appropriate. There are doubtless bulletin boards where people can rate and review contractors, just as there are rating sites for restaurants and hotels, but they are probably local and I don't know of them.

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Answered on 4/05/09, 2:12 pm

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