SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Court of Appeals waded into Internet meme culture in a ruling over a negative Yelp review.
The ruling centers around a Yelp review posted by Stephen Glover in 2015. Upset over his representation in a divorce case by attorney Terry Spencer, Glover posted a review that began with “Worst ever,” and proceeded to criticize Spencer.
Spencer asked Glover to remove the Yelp review, the court ruling states. When Glover refused, Spencer sued him for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and intentional interference with prospective economic relations.
A lower court dismissed Spencer’s lawsuit, ruling that the statements were “mere opinion.” In the Court of Appeals’ ruling, Judge Kate Toomey, upheld the lower court’s decision. She waded into the use of the phrase “Worst ever.”
“Spencer argues it is possible to demonstrate the phrase ‘worst ever’ is false because he has twenty-five years of experience as an attorney and has never been disciplined by the Utah State Bar. He therefore cannot be the ‘worst’ attorney, because others, who have received professional discipline, must be worse than he is,” Judge Kate Toomey wrote.
“Thus, he reasons, the phrase ‘worst ever’ can be objectively determined to be true or false. This argument makes sense if a reader would likely understand the phrase ‘worst ever’ in a strictly literal sense. But no reader would.”
Judge Toomey wrote that “worst ever” is “a common colloquial phrase used to express a strong negative opinion.”
“When a person declares that he or she just went on the worst date ever, no reasonable listener would understand that statement as a claim that the speaker exhaustively researched all the dates in the history of dating, developed objective scoring criteria, and determined as a matter of fact that last night’s date was worse than dates that ended in death, violence, or vomiting in a restaurant,” she wrote.
“Likewise, if a person declares that his doctor is the worst ever, no reasonable listener would understand the statement to mean that the doctor was worse than Dr. Josef Mengele. Similarly, no reasonable reader would have read Glover’s comment, especially in context, as an assertion of fact rather than an assertion of opinion.”
The ruling also wades into the nature of Yelp reviews and their purpose, as well as an explanation of the phrase “Google it!”
Spencer did not immediately return messages from FOX 13 seeking comment on Saturday.
Read the entire ruling here: