Woman ruffles landlord's feathers on Twitter, sued for $50,000

29 July 2009

Twitter presents the illusion that nobody is listening or cares about your rambling minutiae, whereas anybody on the lookout for a particular keyword or phrase can find you. Despite all we've written about businesses migrating to Twitter - to understand their customers and interact with them - for some, the internet remains a strange, dystopian future.

In May, a former tenant of Horizon Group Management in Chicago called Amanda Bonnen is claimed to have posted a message on Twitter which read:

"Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."

Although Bonnen no longer lives at the property, Horizon is reported to have filed a lawsuit against her, claiming she "maliciously and wrongfully" libeled the company. Horizon is now seeking $50,000 in damages.

Given that Bonnen had barely posted 60 messages on Twitter and had less than 20 followers, it's unlikely the message spread any further than it would have if part of a loud conversation in the pub. Even if Bonnen's claim is untrue, Horizon have done far more damage by pursuing the story - it's everywhere. The backlash on Twitter has been spectacular, with hundreds of people now goading Horizon into suing them next. For example:

Spectacular, as I said. The reason everyone is getting upset with Horizon is as much to do with a quote attributed to them by the Chicago Sun-Times, as it is their treatment of Bonnen. The company has admitted it didn't bother talking to Bonnen before issuing the lawsuit - Jeffrey Michael, whose family runs Horizon stated:

“We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organisation”.

Gotcha. Welcome to a company that doesn't understand the internet, isn't interested in listening to the customer's side of the story, or realise how big a PR disaster it's created for itself.


  • ScottC
    Another nicely biased blog on Bitterwallet. If your company and livelihood was being slated and falsely so in a public forum, you are saying that you would stand by and allow it? Bad PR or no, the company has an absolute right to defend itself from false claims - if you dont like the way its done, fair enough, but certainly its no worse than the tenant did herself.
  • Dave S.
    ScottC - Wouldn't it be in their best business interest to learn from this and develop the company? Rather than going "No, fuck you, Iv'e thrown my dummy from the pram, I'm going to have a paddy and cry and sue you for $50,000, so there, nah!"* I won't get sued for implying that they are little babies will I?
  • Me
    Whatever happened to free speech?? If Horizon had a problem they should have posted and replied themselves. What a bunch of assholes! If it can be proved the apartment was indeed mouldy, it should be thrown out of court with Horizon paying the costs.
  • ScottC
    Me - and it will, IF that is proven. Nothing happened to free speech - but you have never been allowed to defame an individual or company without proof! Dave - possibly, but as I say that is their choice, they do have recourse for libel and slander - and I for one am not going to condemn them for following this line that is perfectly allowable by law. In addition, it is a lie to say it is the same as a conversation in the pub - the conversation in the pub does not stay for anyone who arrives in the pub 20 days after the conversation to hear the same thing, unlike twitter.
  • H-dog
    Are you simple?? In what way is this biased? This is a compliant not slander. If she was making it up to damage the company then, sure, sue away…it’s the American dream. But as she’s voiced her experience in public this would be the perfect opportunity to respond in public e.g. “Sorry you thought this, what can we do to help” or “This isn’t 100% true as X happened when water dripped down from X after an X session went X” Show both sides rather than be a dick about it and sue. Now the damaging part is it's now public that they not only have "moudly houses" but they also respond to customer concerns by pressing the big red "sue" button. United Breaks Guitars!!
  • ScottC
    The key difference between a complaint and slander (actually libel as it is in writing) is the wording. If you dont know that, then with all due respect I suspect you are the one who is simple. By biased, I mean that as usual it is "big conglomorate" against "little person". As usual, not even an inkling that the person may have actually been in the wrong.
  • Anonymous
    @ScottC STFU!, did you not read the blog or are you illterate? It's not about the big company versus the small person - what the blog is trying to show is the PR disaster. Sure the company have the right to sue if they please, but given than about 20 people read what she said, and probably took no notice of what she said that should have been that. She may have been in the wrong - but it's been made even more public and the blame has shifted from her to the company and made them look bad. So in a nutshell they should have just ignored it. And you would be non-the-wiser.
  • Nobby
    It seems to be the most interesting thing JeffJKowalski has ever posted.
  • Steve
    @ScottC - does the company have the legal right to sue? Yeah, sure, it's mentioned by name in a negative fashion and they can dispute that in court. Woo, and indeed, Hoo. HOWEVER a little common sense goes a long way. This particular individual has a whole 20 followers on Twitter, most of whom are likely to know her anyway and could therefore already know about this complaint. To go straight for the suing option is ridiculous, to claim $50,000 of damage has been done is absolute insanity. There's no way that, prior to them making the decision to sue, they can justifiably claim that sort of figure. If they wanted this resolved they could have simply contacted her and asked that she remove the post. No communication has been done, no good faith attempts have been made and before this ridiculous action by the company involved no-one in the public domain had the first blasted clue that this post existed.
  • Mickey
    I don't think ScottC quite understands the purpose of BitterWallet.
  • ScottC
    Please enlighten me Mickey.
  • Shooter M.
    I love people that like to show off their towering intellect by giving us the lowdown on how slander and libel really aren't the same thing. I just wonder if ScottC has brushed up on his Illinois civil law.
  • A C.
    [...] Woman ruffles landlord’s feathers on Twitter, sued for $50,000 [BitterWallet] “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organisation”, says a company that has made a complete fool of itself on Twitter. Hmm. A rather good piece. [...]

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