The Chicago Sun-Times reported yesterday that Horizon Group Management LLC, an apartment leasing and management company, has filed a libel suit against former tenant Amanda Bonnen.
Apparently Ms. Bonnen sent out a Tweet on May 12 that read in part:
Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.
Horizon Realty Group didn’t like that, and has filed suit.
Here’s the real kicker in this whole thing
Jeffrey Michael, whose family has run Horizon for more than 25 years had this to say:
"The statements are obviously false, and it’s our intention to prove that."
He said that while she moved out recently, the company never had a conversation about the post and never asked her to take it down.
"We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization”
My emphasis in bold.
That bears repeating”¦ Horizon Realty Group goes on the record in the mainstream media as a “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of organization”.
They are seeking $50,000 in damages.
Well Horizon Realty Group, you just did far more damage to your reputation than Ms. Bonnen could have dreamed of.
CBS2 in Chicago reports that the suit contains language that because Bonnen’s Twitter account was set to public, “everyone following on Twitter can view the defamatory statement”.
Well yeah, if they happened to be viewing the public Twitter stream at the moment the Tweet was sent. Ever watched the public Twitter stream? Things fly by in nano-seconds, only to be lost in a sea of a bazillion hourly Tweets. In reality, the only people that had a real chance of seeing this Tweet would have been. Ms. Bonnen’s followers.
So at best, 22 people saw the Tweet that Horizon Group Management claims, “greatly injured its reputation as a landlord in Chicago”.
And how many are seeing now that Horizon is a “sue first, ask questions later kind of organization”??? Hundreds of thousands, easily. (Could, literally, be millions. This is now a “trending topic” on Twitter.)
What we have here is an epic fail on the part of Horizon. By their own admission, they never had a conversation with the complainant, they never asked her to delete the Tweet. Apparently they did nothing to mitigate this problem other than file a libel suit that is now being discussed across the Internet.
You just cost yourself a LOT more than fifty thousand Horizon. If you think Amanda Bonnen hosed your reputation with a Tweet seen by a couple of dozen people at best, then you haven’t seen anything yet. Your “sue first ask questions later” mentality may soon be in business school case studies about how to completely and utterly blow it when it comes to new media /social media PR.
Just watch. The carnage is going to be ugly.
Update: One hour after posting this, the count on a Google blog search for “Amanda Bonnen” has gone from 74 to 112 results. A Google search on “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization” has gone from 56 to 146 results. Posts, including this one, are already on page 1 of Google for search terms related to Horizon Realty Group, Horizon Group management, etc.
Here is the actual Tweet that started this whole thing:
Here is the actual law suit filing (via Chicago Now).
Update 3: Horizon Realty has issued a press release in response to the, uhm, let’s say “overwhelming” response to their lawsuit. From Jeff Michael, of the now infamous “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization” quote.
A Google Blog Search for “Amanda Bonnen” yields 74 results. And counting”¦
A Google search of “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization” yields 56 results. And counting”¦
Hat tip: @evo_terra
Photo Credit: Damien Basile on Flickr. Creative Commons License.