Landlord's Defamation Suit Against Tenant Over Moldy Apartment Tweet Dismissed

Andrew Wang of Chicago Breaking News reports that an Illinois judge has dismissed Horizon Realty Group's defamation lawsuit against Amanda Bonnen. Surely you remember this gem from last summer? The landlord that sued its tenant for tweeting to all of 20 followers that her apartment was moldy; the management company that made—and then backpedalled on—one of the greatest statements (foot-in-mouth-wise) of all time: "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization." Ah, good times indeed.

Cook County Circuit Court Judge Diane J. Larsen found that Bonnen's tweet wasn't capable of supporting Horizon's claim because it was "too vague to meet the legal standards of libel." Ruling from the bench, the court also apparently indicated that the tweet could be construed innocently or as a statement of opinion, according to Wang's article.

As you'll recall, the statement in question is "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you?  Horizon realty thinks it's ok."  It's hard to say what the court had in mind without seeing a written opinion, but perhaps Judge Larsen reasoned that the use of "moldy" in this context didn't create a sufficiently precise meaning in the mind of the average reader.  As I've explained before, this is part of the test courts use to determine whether a statement is "fact" or "opinion." In defamation cases, statements of opinion are constitutionally protected unless they imply the existence of unstated, false facts. 

If I can get a hold of a written opinion (assuming one is forthcoming), I'll post it to our database entry, Horizon Group v. Bonnen.

Update: I spoke with one of Ms. Bonnen's lawyers, and it sounds like there won't be a formal written opinion forthcoming.  Here's the judge's very short dismissal order.  I also got a hold of the briefs on the motion


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