Tenant sued for defamation by landlord

A tenant who used the micro-blogging service Twitter to complain about mould in her Chicago apartment is being sued.

Horizon Group Management filed a lawsuit that has accused Amanda Bonnen of defaming the company with her tweet.

She sent out a message that said “Who said sleeping in a mouldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon really thinks it’s okay.”

“The statements are obviously false, and it’s our intention to prove that,” said Horizon’s Jeffrey Michael.

Mr Michael, whose family has run the company for the last quarter of a century, told the Chicago Sun-Times that while Ms Bonnen recently moved out, he 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 organisation,” Mr Michael told the paper.

Classy.

While, the landlord here might be entitled to sue for defamation, but people in perceived positions of power need to learn to modulate their legal responses in online conflicts to be appropriate for the online environment.

If the plaintiff and defendant are both online operations (or individuals) and the alleged wrong happens online, a real-world style response, however legitimate it might be, will be seen as heavy-handed and, in that situation at least, the defendant’s online community has the ability to respond to the plaintiff online or otherwise make their life difficult.

Here, the plaintiff is offline, but the defendant and the alleged defamation are both online, and on a platform that is made to spread information. The landlord here should at the very least make an initial gesture that can’t be described as anti-social. Instead, this landlord is acting the definition of anti-social: sue first, talk later.

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