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    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
    behind her.

    “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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