Amanda Bonnen thought that she was merely expressing herself when she posted a public tweet on Twitter on May 12th complaining about mold in her Chicago apartment. The Horizon Group Management company has responded by suing her for defamation in a rare tweet tort by a business. However, tortious tweets are finding their way into court as the basis for liability claims.
Bonnen lives on the Northside neighborhood of Chicago at 4242 N. Sheridan Rd. (just around the corner from my family home). She sent a tweet that said that Horizon Group that said “Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.”
The company has now sued her for $50,000 in a response that seems both excessive and unnecessary.
The question will come down to opinion. Opinion is not at complete a defense as people assume. There is a belief that you can protect yourself by merely stating “In my opinion, . . . ” However, courts have ruled that you can be held for defamation if your statement assumes a false and defamatory fact. Here the company is arguing that Bonnen’s tweet asserts the fact that the company is unconcerned with mold. In one case, it was a company that claims the opinion privilege in characterizing a doctor’s performance as problematic, here.
Bonnen can clearly claim that the context of the tweet showed that this was her opinion and outburst and that no one would assume that a company had a policy of being pro-mold or being unconcerned about such problems. The line reads like an outburst and sarcasm.
What is interesting is that a single tweet was unlikely to attract much attention but the lawsuit has made this a national story.
Twitter torts are not unheard of. Courtney Love was recently sued for defamation by clothes designer Dawn Simorangkir, also known as Boudoir Queen based on her tweets, here.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa recently settled his prior defamation lawsuit against Twitter, here.
Likewise, Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was fined $25,000 for a tweet about the refereeing of his team’s 103-101 loss to Denver, here.
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