Post: Judge tosses Twitter libel suit
Posted by Sharon on 1/22/10
Judge tosses Twitter libel suit
CHICAGO (STMW) -- In 140 characters, the story can be told:
A judge has tossed the libel suit against an Uptown tenant
for her Twitter post on apartment mold.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane Larsen this week
threw out Horizon Realty Group’s libel suit against Amanda
Bonnen, who had sent out a tweet complaining about mold in
a Horizon apartment.
The judge wrote in her brief decision: “the court finds the
tweet nonactionable as a matter of law.”
When the suit was filed and the media picked up on it, the
story went viral — prompting freedom-of-speech discussion
in this age of social media.
In filing the suit last summer, Horizon claimed its
reputation was hurt when an Amanda Bonnen, using the
handle “abonnen” posted: “Who said sleeping in a moldy
apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s okay.”
But Bonnen’s attorney Leslie Ann Reis said the case against
her client didn’t meet the legal definition of defamation.
“A defendant needs to have made a false statement
concerning the plaintiff, that there was a publication to a
third party and that the publication of that statement hurt
the plaintiff, and you have to reach each of those hurdles
to prevail on a defamation claim,”
said Reis, Assistant Professor and Director for the Center
for Information Technology and Privacy Law at John Marshall
Law School. She helped defend Bonnen in the libel case.
“Ms. Bonnen’s statements didn’t reach that definition of
defamation,” Reis said, adding: “It could be easily
construed as being her opinion,” which is different from
The case was dismissed with prejudice, so it can’t be filed
The Chicago-based Horizon Realty couldn’t be reached for
comment on Thursday, a day after the case was dismissed.
But last July the company issued a statement explaining
that this all bubbled to the surface after Bonnen filed
suit June 2 against the company for allegedly violating the
city’s landlord ordinance, and she moved out of the
apartment June 30.
Some time after that, the company came across the
May “moldy” Twitter post.
Jeff Michael, whose family has run Horizon for 25 years,
told the Sun-Times at the time the suit was filed that they
had not approached Bonnen about taking down the post.
“We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an
organization,” he said.
Bonnen’s attorney said her client is thankful the case is
“Certainly the publicity surprised her and she’s extremely
happy to get on with her life at this point,” Reis said.
And while her client did nothing wrong, Reis said this is a
cautionary tale in this age of posting the details of our
lives — and our opinions — on Facebook, Twitter and other
social networking sites.
“It’s an important point we’re trying to stress to our
students,” Reis said. “With any of our social media out
there today, you need to think twice about what you write
there. Social media postings are being looked at by lots of
people and lots of entities that people don’t think about,
whether that’s employers, whether that’s opponents in
litigation, and we all need to think about that.”
Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago Sun-Times 2010. All Rights
Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast,
rewritten, or redistributed.
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