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Can’t sue TripAdvisor

A federal appeals court said that the Grand Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, Tenn, can’t sue TripAdvisor for defamation. The hotel had ranked No 1 on a list of dirtiest hotels in America, and the owner said the ranking would irreparably damage his business and reputation.

The owner of a hotel in Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains that was No 1 in TripAdvisor’s 2011 list of America’s dirtiest hotels cannot sue the travel website operator for defamation, according to a federal appeals court said.

Kenneth Seaton complained in a $10 million lawsuit that the ranking for his Grand Resort Hotel and Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., was a product of a flawed rating system dependent on “unsubstantiated rumors” and was intended to irreparably damage his business and reputation. TripAdvisor said the ranking was based on traveler ratings for cleanliness. The 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said travellers could not reasonably interpret the ranking as a statement that Grand Resort was in fact “America’s dirtiest hotel” and that website operators get broad protection from lawsuits over reader-generated reviews.

While the hotel’s entry had a photo of a ripped bedspread and a complaint from a TripAdvisor user about “dirt at least (1/2-inch) thick in the bathtub which was filled with lots of dark hair,” Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore said no one would view this to conclusively mean the hotel deserved its ranking.

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