Posted Jul 28, 2009, 11:38 am CDT
By Sarah Randag
An apartment management company in Illinois has sued a tenant for libel over a “malicious and defamatory” tweet about the state of her apartment to her 20 followers on Twitter.
Chicago Bar-Tender has the complaint filed by Horizon Group Management against Amanda Bonnen, who was a tenant in one of its Chicago buildings. The complaint notes that the @abonnen account named in the complaint had only 20 followers (the account appears to no longer be live). The blog also has a screen shot of @abonnen’s May 12 tweet reply:
“You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s OK.”
The Cook County Circuit Court complaint includes @abonnen’s entire Twitter feed between April 27 and July 13 as Exhibit A, and it notes that because the @abonnen account was public, “anybody in the world can view the account holder’s tweets.” The complaint contends that because the “statement damaged the plaintiff’s reputation in its business, the statement is libel per se.”
Horizon Realty Group issued a press release on July 28 in which general counsel Jeff Michael stated that Bonnen had filed suit against Horizon on July 24, and that Horizon had discovered the tweet while conducting due diligence in response to that suit.
The complaint seeks a jurisdictional amount of damages and contends that because Bonnen’s tweet is defamatory per se damages to the plaintiff’s reputation “are presumed.”
I posted this because it is funny, but the suit shows the potential power of the social media networks like Twitter and Facebook. It is also a lesson on the risks of posting what could be considered defamatory statements. Bottom line, be careful what you post about businesses that could sue you. Brian