United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO
DISMISS AND MOTION TO STRIKE
Dennis Saylor, IV United States District Judge.
a case arising out of a dispute between Arian DiNapoli, a
Boston dentist, and Yelp Inc., which provides a platform for
customer reviews of local businesses and service providers.
Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship.
to the complaint, Yelp manipulated the reviews of DiNapoli on
its website to retaliate against him when he refused to
purchase advertising from it. DiNapoli, who has changed
lawyers, now seeks to dismiss the lawsuit voluntarily.
Instead of agreeing to a voluntary dismissal, Yelp has filed
a combined “special motion to dismiss and strike”
the complaint under California's anti-SLAPP statute, Cal.
Civ. Proc. Code, § 425.16. In substance, Yelp is seeking
its attorney's fees and costs under the statute. For the
following reasons, the motion for voluntary dismissal will be
granted and the motion to strike under California law will be
facts appear as alleged in the amended complaint unless
DiNapoli is a resident of Massachusetts. He operates a dental
practice called “Ari Family Dental” in West
Roxbury, Massachusetts. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1).
Inc. is a Delaware corporation with a principal place of
business in San Francisco, California. Yelp operates a
website where consumers can post reviews of businesses and
services. (Am. Compl. 4, 6).
September 15, 2015, DiNapoli performed an emergency dental
surgery on an unnamed patient. (Am. Compl. ¶ 9).
DiNapoli contends that the patient called him on January 29,
2016, and requested a falsified tax receipt. DiNapoli
refused. Later that day, the patient allegedly posted a
negative review of DiNapoli's business on Ari Family
Dental's Yelp page. (Am. Compl. ¶ 10, 11). Yelp
categorized the review as “unreliable.” (Am.
Compl. ¶ 12, 13).
March 2016 and January 2017, Yelp attempted four times to
sell advertising space on its website to DiNapoli. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 14, 16, 18, 20). Each time, DiNapoli declined.
(Am. Compl. ¶ 15, 17, 19, 21). Soon after DiNapoli's
last refusal, in January 2017, Yelp allegedly changed the
January 2016 negative review from “unreliable” to
“reliable.” Doing so apparently caused the
negative review to “replac[e]” positive reviews
that had until then appeared on DiNapoli's page. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 23).
contacted Yelp and provided evidence that he contended showed
the negative review was false. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27). Yelp
kept the review listed as “reliable.”
Furthermore, in alleged retaliation for DiNapoli's
refusal to purchase advertising space, it posted
advertisements for competing dental practices directly next
to the negative review on DiNapoli's page. (Am. Compl.
¶ 28, 29). In addition, Yelp allegedly
“mischaracterized” five positive reviews on
DiNapoli's page as “unreliable.” (Am. Compl.
March 22, 2018, DiNapoli filed suit against Yelp in
Massachusetts state court. The complaint asserted two counts,
one for a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 93A, § 11 and
one for “Negligent Mode of Operation.” Yelp
removed the action to this court on April 23, 2018.
April 30, 2018, Yelp filed a combined special motion to
dismiss and strike the complaint pursuant to the California
anti-SLAPP statute, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code, § 425.16. On
the same day, DiNapoli filed an amended complaint that added
a third count-a claim that Yelp had “intentional[ly]
interfere[d] with business and/or contractual
relationships.” Yelp then filed a new combined ...