Pet-Sitting Company Sues Couple For $1 Million Over Bad Review
In what amounts to much ado about a Betta fish, Ars Technica picks up the case of a Texas couple who went on vacation last year, and did what many traveling pet owners do: They hired a pet-sitting service, a simple act that has now resulted in “numerous death and rape threats” and a $1 million lawsuit. Allow us to explain how we got here:
- Michelle and Robert Duchouquette hired Prestigious Pets of Dallas to look after their two dogs and aforementioned Betta fish, Gordy, while they were away for five days.
- The Duchouquettes contend, via their lawyer, in what Mashable notes is “one of the most painful defenses of all time,” that “that the fish water became cloudy and that food accumulated at the bottom of the tank, which must have been caused by overfeeding, and apparently overfeeding is a serious issue for this kind of tropical fish.”
- The Duchouquettes retaliated with a one-star review on Yelp in which they said “The one star is for potentially harming my fish, otherwise it would have been two stars. We have a camera on the bowl and we watched the water go from clear to cloudy.” (Emphasis ours.)
- As is wont to happen in these situations, Prestigious Pets responded with an apology and a … er, no, a $1 million lawsuit claiming defamation and a violation of a service contract stipulation that the Duchouquettes not say mean things about Prestigious Pets on the Internet. Prestigious Pets further contends that because of earlier iterations of the suit, its owner and her husband have been subject to “numerous rape and death threats that have come on the heels of the Duchouquettes’ media campaign.”
- And of course this quickly became a First Amendment issue, with the Duchouquettes arguing that it is their constitutional right to say mean things on the Internet. Per their lawyer: “Until Congress passes the Consumer Review Freedom Act, (this case) could be our best chance to get one of these clauses declared unenforceable.”
- As Mashable notes: “Gordy the fish was not available for comment.”