The owner of Gateway Hills Health Club, Nashua, New Hampshire, is suing a former member for writing a critical review of the club on Yelp.
Club owner Matt Dispensa Sr. is suing Michael Abdinoor for $750,000 in damages, in addition to legal expenses and court fees, according to the Union Leader, for what the lawsuit claims were "intentionally ... false, defamatory and slanderous statements" that Abdinoor posted on the crowd-sourced review site in October 2017. In his complaint filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, Dispensa also requested Abdinoor remove his Oct. 14, 2017, post regarding an alleged billing dispute.
According to court documents, Abdinoor joined Gateway Hills in June 2017 at a $29.99 monthly rate. In September, he learned his on-file credit card was not being charged, so he contacted the club and was told he owed $560 for 14 months of dues priced at $40 per month. He disputed this debt and was later asked to pay $360 for four months of dues.
Abdinoor said he was barred from the club in October and was allegedly told via email to "find another club."
His Yelp review states: “[I]f you want a health club which is incompetent and disingenuous, Gateway Hills is the place to go. I am also canceling the credit card given to them because they are untrustworthy.”
In court documents, Abdinoor said Dispensa's lawsuit is only meant to "harass and intimidate" and is "frivolous," arguing that he is entitled to $1,000 to cover his own litigation fees because Gateway Hills failed to resolve the billing issue and acted with negligence.
Dispensa told the Union Leader he attempted to resolve the matter with Abdinoor outside of court to no avail.
"[Yelp] is extremely challenging to work with," Dispensa told the Union Leader. "People can basically say whatever they want to say, and there really is no recourse, or very little. ... We are a legitimate business, and we care about our customers. I believe in people's First Amendment rights to post their opinion. ... Unfortunately, things that are posted on Yelp stay out there forever, and now there is a permanent record."
A local judge suggested mediation in an attempt to resolve the dispute, and both sides have agreed, the Union Leader reported on March 11
Gateway Hills has 1,000 active members and 17 employees, according to the Union Leader.