Chicago woman sued for Twitter post

July 28, 2009 8:32:57 PM PDT
A Chicago apartment leasing and management company has filed a lawsuit claiming a Twitter update filed by a former resident was libelous.Amanda Bonnen lived in an Uptown apartment building for two years before moving out last month. Now her former landlord has filed a defamation suit against her.

Horizon Realty Group says she damaged the company's reputation when she made the following tweet to a friend on the popular social networking site Twitter: "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."

The suit is seeking an excess of $50,000 from Bonnen. But legal experts say defamation suits are hard to prove.

"Defamation applies to a false statement of fact that injures a reputation and I don't think they're going to be able to prove their reputation was really injured by a tweet to 20 people," said Jim Speta , Northwestern University law professor.

After the tweet, Bonnen filed a class action lawsuit against Horizon Group last month alleging violations of the landlord-tenant ordinance.

It was that lawsuit that led Horizon to discover the Tweet as is explained in this statement by a Horizon spokesperson: "On June 24, much to our surprise given her previous silence, Bonnen sued Horizon Realty Group, and we are currently defending this claim which, again, we believe has no merit. In conducting our due diligence into this matter, we identified Bonnen's public tweet regarding mold and acted to protect our reputation just as we would for any other related comment made in a public forum."

On Tuesday night, those who use Twitter say the issue poses questions about what is appropriate to say in a public forum.

"If there is something that I would think would haunt me, I wouldn't say it," said Chris Salvatera.

"The internet is a free place. You can say pretty much whatever you want," said Paul Novarro.

Amanda Bonnen could not be reached for comment through her Twitter and Myspace pages. Also, her attorney could not be reached for comment.

At the time of the tweet, Bonnen had 20 followers on Twitter. Now, this issue has gained nationwide attention.


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