Court rules TripAdvisor “Dirtiest Hotels” is legally protected consumer generated opinion

TripAdvisor was sued by a hotel named on the 2011 Top 10 Dirtiest Hotels in America (Jan 25, 2011) as the “Dirtiest Hotel in America”.

The Grand Resort Hotel & Convention Center in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee was the biggest loser in TripAdvisor’s ranking and a recent court ruling. The Grand Resort Hotel ranked # 1 on Tripadvisor’s 2011 Dirtiest Hotels in America.

This year, the tarnished title of America’s dirtiest hotel goes to Grand Resort Hotel & Convention Center, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. The southern belle hotel failed to charm TripAdvisor travelers; 87 percent of those who reviewed it recommended against staying there. The unpopular property elicited such hotel review titles as “Worst Hotel Stay of My Life,” “Stay Anywhere Else But Here,” and “Absolutely Horrible!”

TripAdvisor Lifts the Lid on America’s Dirtiest Hotels (Jan 25, 2011)

The Grand Resort sued TripAdvisor for defamation and the court ruled the “dirtiest hotels” ranking is non-actionable opinion and dismissed the case.

I’m just saying, in my opinion…

The basis of the case was TripAdvisor’s compilation of user generated reviews and ratings to create a “Dirtiest Hotels” list. The hotel’s lawsuit argued that TripAdvisor made an objective fact by claiming these hotels are the dirtiest in America after crunching the numbers for hotel cleanliness provided by consumer opinions from TripAdvisor user generated reviews. The ten dirtiest hotels were the hotels in TripAdvisor’s hotel database with the lowest numbers for cleanliness.

The court ruled that TripAdvisor was not liable for defamation in this case.

neither the fact that Defendant [TripAdvisor] numbers its opinions one through ten, nor that it supports its opinions with data, converts its opinions to objective statements of fact.


A “Reasonable Person” should be able to distinguish opinions from “Just the facts, ma’am”

The court ruling states a “reasonable person” will not accept “Best of” and “Worst of” lists as objective facts.

TripAdvisor’s list is of the genre of hyperbole that is omnipresent. From law schools to restaurants, from judges to hospitals, everything is ranked, graded, ordered and critiqued. Undoubtedly, some will accept the array of “Best” and “Worst” rankings as impenetrable maxims. Certainly, some attempt to obfuscate the distinction between fact and opinion as part of their course of business. For those that read “eat here,” “sleep there” or “go to this law school” and are unable to distinguish measured analysis of objective facts from sensational “carnival barking,” compliance will be both steadfast and assured. Nevertheless, the standard, fortunately, is what a “reasonable person” would believe. A reasonable person would not confuse a ranking system, which uses consumer reviews as its litmus, for an objective assertion of fact. It does not appear to the Court that a reasonable person could believe that TripAdvisor’s article reflected anything more than the opinions of TripAdvisor’s millions of online users. Eric Goldman article – August 27, 2012

This court ruling may give some protection against defamation liability for websites who compile Best/Worst lists as long as the site makes it clear the list is based on user generated opinions, according to Eric Goldman, professor of law at Santa Clara University, California.

The Forbes article by Eric Goldman cites and links to other relevant legal opinions for this case if you have more interest in the topic.


An interesting aside is the Grand Resort Hotel & Convention Center is ranked #91 of 96 hotels in Pigeon Forge when I checked TripAdvisor today. Apparently you can do worse booking a hotel in Pigeon Forge.

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Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. I never heard of Pigeon Force let alone the property until this hotel put itself in the Hall of Fame on all counts
    I suggest we all fly there First Class to the lovely PF Grand Hotel and see for ourselves:)
    Instead of hiring lawyers these fools should have put it into fixing the hotels problems
    Interesting case though a waste of time and $$$$
    Next frivolous lawsuit is ?

  2. Do they have a loyalty program?

    Do they offer a status match?

    Will I get room upgrades and free breakfast as an elite member?

    Do they offer late check-out?


  3. that place looks disgusting…I wouldn’t stay there if you offered me a free kidney and I was on dialysis for the rest of my life!

  4. Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg is a rather well-known tourist destination.

    Glad to see a court case in which common sense prevailed.

  5. Check out the traveler photo of the indoor hot tub. Based on the swimsuits, that had to have been taken in the 80s!

  6. We went to Pigeon Forge a couple years ago and that hotel looked like a dump. Made sure to avoid that hotel as I read trip advisor. Got a decent hotel using PL bidding as I checked trip advisor, biddingfortravel & better bidding sites before bidding. Did not want that “dump” at any cost. 😉

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