Embattled local businessman Kenneth Seaton is suing travel website TripAdvisor for $10 million, claiming its recently naming his Grand Resort Hotel the dirtiest lodging in the country was a flawed effort to chase away his customers.
Seaton filed the suit in Sevier County Circuit Court, calling for a jury to hear the case in which he is seeking compensatory and punitive damages of $5 million each.
The Grand Hotel came out on top when TripAdvisor posted its list of the dirtiest hotels in America in January, a ranking derived from the reviews provided by the website's registered users.
In the lawsuit, Seaton's attorneys, John Rogers and Sidney Gilreath, seem to argue the ranking is because the site uses "a rating system which is flawed and inconsistent and distorts actual performance and perspective." It also suggests some sort of ill intent in the list's compilation.
"(TripAdvisor) published its allegations combining and confederating together with others by maliciously and wrongfully contriving, designing and intending to cause respected customers to lose confidence in the (Grand Resort) and to cause the public to cease and refrain from doing business with the (Grand) and to cause great injury and irreparable damage to and to destroy the (Grand's) business and reputation by false and misleading means," reads a portion of the lawsuit.
It goes on to recount how the TripAdvisor report was picked up by several news outlets.
"(Grand Resort) alleges that the defendant TripAdvisor has singled out (Grand Resort) and directly advised customers not to trust them," the filing continues.
The attorneys argue the Grand has lost "the confidence of the persons, firms and corporations" that have used its accomodations in the past because of the survey, meaning those guests might not return.
Gilreath did not return a phone message Tuesday seeking comment on the suit.
TripAdvisor spokeswoman Amelie Hurst declined to discuss the matter.
"TripAdvisor does not comment on threatened or pending litigation," she said.
Among those offering opinions on the site - which bills itself as the largest travel portal in the world - 87 percent said they would not recommend the Grand Hotel property to others.