Hotel cannot sue Expedia after being listed among "the dirtiest."
The Grand Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, sued TripAdviser, LLC, for defamation after the Expedia subsidiary listed it among the "2011 Dirtiest Hotels." The hotel claimed defamation, business libel and tortious interference with prospective business relationships; it argued that TripAdviser lacked evidence to support the opinion offered and that TripAdviser's methodology for ranking "dirtiest" hotels was defective.
TripAdviser argued that it simply presented a list of First Amendment "protected opinions" and could not be sued. The Sixth Circuit agreed and upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit. The high court concluded that loose, hyperbolic opinion survey language cannot constitute illegal defamation, since by its nature and definition it cannot be proven factually false. Since "loose, figurative or hyperbolic" language negates the impression of a seriously maintained fact, such language protects the author from a claim of defamatory fact assertion. "Mere hyperbole or exaggerated statements intended to make a point are not actionable defamatory statements." Calling Glenn Beck the most ignorant, evil, blowhard, in America," for example, is not treated as a factual assertion subject to the law of defamation.
Since TripAdviser used hyperbolic language and "entertaining examples" as a way of illustrating the subjective views of its users, it was not subject to legal action. As another court had previously held, "[I]t is inconceivable that placement on the "Top Ten Dumb Asses" list...could be understood to convey any imputation of provable defamatory fact.