Folks leave reviews on Yelp to help potential patrons decide whether or not to give that business their money. If people knew that they could get sued for leaving bad reviews on Yelp, there probably wouldn’t be as many. 20-year-old Lan Cai is learning that the hard way. Houston-based law firm Tuan A. Khuu is suing her for between $100,000-$200,000 for leaving unfavorable reviews of the firm on Yelp and Facebook.
It all started for Cai when she was driving home from her job around 1:30 AM one night. She works six days a week as a server to pay her way through nursing school at Houston Community College. However, that night, her car was hit by a drunk driver, then ht again by another vehicle that couldn’t avoid her. Cai broke two bones in her lower back as a result. She reached out to Tuan A. Khuu for representation. The Houston Press reports:
Cai had never been in a major accident before, and she needed help from the attorneys while navigating insurance and proving her entitlement to damages. But when the attorneys came to her home, entered her bedroom (the attorneys maintain Cai’s mother told them to go in) and then ignored her phone calls and emails in the days immediately after Cai signed the contract, she felt like hiring them was a mistake.
“I feel like they’re trying to pull every single penny out of me just because I didn’t want to be their client,” Cai wrote in a Facebook group called Vietnamese Americans in Houston. “After 3 days, they didn’t tell me anything about the doctor I needed to go to. I was in a lot of pain. Not only that, they didn’t know where the hell my car was! And they came to my house and into my room to talk to me when I was sleeping in my underwear. Seriously, it’s super unprofessional! …I came in to the office to meet with my previous attorney, but he literally ran off.”
The law firm found the post and declared it libel that would tarnish the firm’s reputation. Tuan A. Khuu attorney Keith Nguyen wrote Cai an email reading, ‘It has come to my attention that you have posted some dispariging [sic] words on your Facebook account. …If you do not remove the post from Facebook and any other social media sites, my office will have no choice but to file suit.”
When asked if he felt bad for suing the young woman, Nguyen said, “No, I don’t feel bad at all. I feel sorry for her, because again, I gave her plenty of opportunities to retract and delete her post and she refused. She was proud: ‘I’ve got it on Facebook. I’ve got it on Yelp,’ with no remorse.”
Cai is not the first to post bad reviews of the firm. The Press writes:
A guy named Han in Richardson, Texas, wrote, “Duped and filthy legal services. They trap you in their plan and dupe you out for their own goods. Stay away to protect yourself and your family.” A guy named Kevin from Austin: “They like to delay responses and make excuses for not returning calls. Incompetent and unreliable are the words I would use to describe their staff.” Charlie from Houston: “I went in for a ‘free consultation’ and it became a decision I would soon regret.”
So why did Nguyen and company go after Cai? Nguyen said, “We don’t mind if someone writes a bad review, as long as it’s true.”
He claims Cai’s is full of “half-truths.” For example, when Cai says that her lawyer “literally ran off” when she showed up unannounced, Nguyen concedes he was on his way out the door, but took a moment to explain to her why there were liens on her insurance. The lawyers who went into her room had no idea she was in her underwear and say they were invited in, Nguyen explained. “It puts us in a bad light,” Nguyen said. “I said [to her], You can say that, but you need to add that we were invited. And she never did. She went ahead and wrote more bad things.”
Cai took to Facebook and Yelp to write, “I wouldn’t even give this law firm a star,” in reference to Yelp’s 5-star rating system. With everything on her plate (lawsuit, broken bones, etc.) Cai is taking a semester off from school to handle her business. She is looking for an attorney to represent her.
When asked for his thoughts on the firm possibly sabotaging Cai’s future, Nguyen said, “It’s not ruining someone’s career chances. They need to think before they post…She needs to learn — people need to learn that there are consequences for their actions.”