FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WUSA)_ - Turns out you cannot say whatever you want on the Internet.
A judge today ordered a Fairfax County woman to take down parts of her nasty review of her contractor.
And she may yet face hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Jane Perez asked an old high school classmate to fix up her townhouse here and when things went wrong she fired him, then went online to Yelp.com and Angie's List to warn others.
She called Christopher Dietz a 'con man' and suggested he might have stolen her jewelry.
But Dietz is fighting back, and winning.
"To finally win on principal and morality and to know good people prevail, that makes me very, very happy," said Dietz.
Dietz was crowing outside the courthouse after winning a preliminary injunction against a former customer who wrote a series of scathing on-line reviews.
" What she put up there were pure lies, stated as fact. That damage can never be undone. But I can stop future damage," he said.
Jane Perez says she never imagined her review on Yelp and Angie's List would land her in court facing thousands of dollars in legal fees... and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages for defamation.
She'd hired Dietz to install a toilet, refinish floors, and fix some light switches.
But when things went south, she wrote that Dietz had damaged her home and hinted he'd stolen her jewelry.
The judge ordered her to take down any allegations of thievery... and to stop claiming she'd won another lawsuit against Dietz "on the merits."
Her lawyer James Bacon says there's a warning here for all of us.
"Be very careful. It appears, at least in Virginia, you have to watch very carefully what you say and opine. And often those things can be used to bring claims like this," said Bacon
But the judge did NOT order Perez to change a bunch of other nasty things in her review.
"The work was not completed, that he charged for work that had not been done. And that the work was very poor," she said.
"I stand by the work I did," Dietz said.
Experts say the number of lawsuits like this is still small.
But on-line reputations are now so important to restaurants, doctors, lawyers -- and contractors -- we may well see more.
It's a battle of internet free speech versus reputation -- and profit.
You never know if these reviews are written by the business owner himself -- or a competitor.
But they can be powerful.
Dietz says he may have lost nearly one million dollars from Jane Perez's nasty reviews.