A couple who left a bad review against an online retailer have been awarded more than $300,000 (176,000) in damages.
Jen and John Palmer had their credit rating destroyed by Kleargear after they refused to pay a $3,500 (2,060) fine imposed for allegedly breaking a “non-disparagement clause”.
But lawyer Scott Michelman stepped in to help the Utah-based couple on a pro-bono basis, winning them the six-figure sum as compensation on Wednesday after Kleargear failed to turn up to federal court.
He said: “It’s a classic public citizen case in that it’s a big corporate bully trying to pressure ordinary people into silence.
“Kleargear was trying to push consumers around because they didn’t like what they had to say.”
The couple tried to buy two Christmas gifts for their son in 2009. When they did not arrive they posted a review on RipoffReport.com.
Three years later, in 2012, Mr Palmer received an email demanding that the review be deleted within 72 hours or that he pay $3,500.
The firm said he was in violation of the company’s “non-disparagement clause” of its terms of service.
However, the term did not appear in the conditions they had agreed to when they placed their order.
As a result of the ruling, the Palmers’ credit rating is restored.
Until now, they had been unable to buy a house, car or even get finance to replace a broken furnace.
They cheered as they left the courtroom, with Mrs Palmer telling a local TV channel: “This has been a whirlwind, roller coaster. We’ve lived this for two years, three years now. We’re just so glad to have finally gotten to this point.”
Mr Palmer said: “I’m so happy that this whole thing is over. The main thing I want is this never to happen to other people.”
As Kleargear did not turn up to court, the court awarded damages without ruling on whether non-disparagement clauses are legal.