PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – New information on the Plano couple facing a $1 million lawsuit after writing a negative Yelp review. Attorneys for Michelle and Robert Duchouquette filed a 31-page motion to dismiss the case Thursday in Dallas district court.
The motion claims that the couple was exercising their right to free speech by writing the negative review.
Michelle Duchouquette and her husband were sued earlier this year after writing a one-star review about Prestigious Pets in Dallas. The review said that she did not like the extra $5 fee to walk her dogs, and that the fish bowl’s water appeared cloudy with possibly too much food.
“I don’t think it was hateful, it didn’t have bad intent, it’s my opinion of a business,” said Duchouquette. After a motion filed by Duchouquette’s attorney, the first lawsuit was dropped and a new lawsuit was filed against the Plano couple by Prestigious Pets. “When I say it out loud, saying I’m getting sued up to $1 million over this review, I can’t believe it.”
The new suit alleges that the review violated the non-disparagement clause in the contract, and that the negative attention has left the business a “shell of its former success.” Prestigious Pets is seeking damages of $200,000 to $1 million.
Public Citizen, an advocacy group in Washington D.C., is representing the couple for free. Nicole Williams, an attorney at Thompson & Knight in Dallas, has also agreed to take on the case pro bono as their local counsel.
Williams explained that this lawsuit could have a big impact on anyone who writes reviews in Texas. “This is really going to be a case about: Can consumers feel safe to go on websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp and write truthful reviews without being brought into court and potentially sued for up to $1 million,” said Williams.
The attorney for Prestigious Pets now has an opportunity to answer the motion filed Thursday. The next hearing date is set for June 30.