Austin, TX (Law Firm Newswire) March 6, 2019 - On January 25, 2019, the Texas Supreme Court issued a decision in the case of Glassdoor, Inc. v. Andra Group, LP where the issue was what evidentiary standard is required for the unmasking of negative and possibly defamatory reviews about businesses in online forums and social media.
Glassdoor is a company that operates a jobs and recruiting website where people can post reviews of their current or former employers. The posts can be done anonymously and Glassdoor has no role in drafting or editing the posts. Andra Group, LLP. is a clothing retailer based in Dallas, Texas. In 2014 and 2015, various people posted ten negative reviews on Glassdoor’s website claiming to be current or former employees. Some of the reviews stated that Andra engaged in illegal hiring practices, violated labor laws, and engaged in racial and sexual orientation harassment, among other alleged claims.
Andra filed a petition to take pre-suit depositions of Glassdoor regarding posts and what it thought was defamatory and business disparagement claims. Glassdoor filed a motion to dismiss Andra’s petition for pre-suit discovery on First Amendment grounds. The trial court denied Glassdoor’s motion and allowed the depositions, but also limited what posts Andra could ask questions about. Glassdoor appealed the trial court’s order to the Texas Court of Appeals, but the Court affirmed the trial court’s ruling. Thus, Glassdoor appealed the case to the Texas Supreme Court.
Texas Supreme Court Ruling
As in many cases on appeal, the Court first looks to determine if the case is ripe for a decision on the merits versus some other issue where it can dismiss the matter without deciding the issue that was originally appealed. In the present case, the Court first addressed whether, given the time that has gone by, Andra’s initial petition for pre-lawsuit discovery was moot due to the statute of limitations. The Court ultimately held that the matter was moot and ruled in favor of Glassdoor.
In Texas, there is a one year statute of limitations for defamation and a two year statute of limitations for business disparagement lawsuits. The Court reasoned that since more than two years have passed and Andra has still not filed a lawsuit against anyone, but merely a petition for pre-lawsuit discovery, the statute of limitations has run out; thus barring Andra from filing suit. Andra argued that it did not know the names of the people who posted on Glassdoor so a lawsuit could not be filed. But the Court suggested that a lawsuit still could have been filed using “Doe” as the defendant(s) and proceeding with discovery at that point. The Court overruled the Court of Appeals and dismissed Andra’s petition.
In a comment on the decision, Gregory D. Jordan, a business litigation attorney with the Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan in Austin, Texas stated that, “clear legal processes for obtaining the identity of authors of defamatory posts are critical for businesses that value their online reputation. At some point, the Texas Supreme Court will likely need to set clear standards on this issue.”
The case is Glassdoor v. Andra Group LP, No. 17-0463.