Horizon Realty Group, an apartment leasing and management company in Chicago, filed a defamation lawsuit last week against a former tenant, Amanda Bonnen, over a tweet she posted about the company on Twitter. According to the complaint, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, Bonnen posted the following tweet on May 12, 2009:
@JessB123 You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's ok.
According to Chicago Bar-Tender, Bonnen had just 20 followers before her account disappeared from Twitter. Nevertheless, Horizon claims that, as a result of the post, the company "has been greatly injured in its reputation as a landlord in Chicago."
This is not the first Twitter-related lawsuit, nor is it likely to be the last, and it is mostly notable for the sheer folly of Horizon's overreaction. Talk about the Streisand effect. Just try searching for "Amanda Bonnen" or "Horizon Realty" on Twitter. (Update: "Horizon Realty" is now in the "Trending Topics" panel on Twitter.)
The PR fallout doesn't seem to be much of a concern to the company — Horizon owner Jeffrey Michael told the Chicago Sun-Times "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization." Wow.
On the merits, I'd hate to be Horizon trying to show that Bonnen's tweet was false, much less made with actual malice or even negligence. Read in context, the tweet refers to Bonnen's own apartment ("You should just come anyway"), not Horizon apartments in general. Unless the statement was a total fabrication (and what could be gained by making this up?), Bonnen shouldn't have too much trouble supporting it with evidence.
We will be monitoring developments in the case in our database entry, Horizon Group v. Bonnen.