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Everybody just calm down. A Twitter user who wrote a negative tweet about mold in her apartment is now being sued for $50,000 in damages. The takeaway?

Individuals should be careful what they say in a public forum. But companies need to take a deep breath before escalating their bad publicity to the national level.

In May, Amanda Bonnen tweeted to a friend the following statement: "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay."

Ms. Bonnen has since moved out of her Horizon Group Management LLC owned apartment, but there's a chance that tweet could get very costly for her. Horizon filed a suit against her asking for $50,000 in damages yesterday because her comment "maliciously and wrongfully" slammed her management company.  

Jeffrey Michael's family has run Horizon Group for over 25 years, and they took the post rather personally. Horizon manages 1,500 apartments in Chicago and felt Bonnen's micromessage was tantamount to defamation.

"The statements are obviously false, and it's our intention to prove that," Michael stated.

The story has been picked up by Fast Company, PC World, USA Today, the Sun-Times, Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Mashable, among others.

Meanwhile, Bonnen, whose account has since been disabled, had about 20 followers on Twitter at the time of the tweet. And as the LA Times pointed out today, most Americans don't even know what Twitter is.

But according to Michael: "We're a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization."

That's all well and good, but thanks to this lawsuit there are a lot of people who now know about Horizon Group Management. And there are two things that they will now associate with the brand: Twitter and mold.

UPDATE: Horizon has released a statement saying that their defamation lawsuit is actually a countersuit to Bonnen's. The tenant sued Horizon after allegedly finding mold in her apartment. Horizon claims there was no mold and Bonnen's lawsuit is a manipulation of Chicago's Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance. Jeffrey Michael has also apologized for the hasty comments that he initially made about the situation: "I would first like to take this oppportunitiy to apologize for tongue in cheek comments that were made previously regarding our approach to litigation. This statement is not in line with our philosophy towards property management and was taken out of context."

Meghan Keane

Published 28 July, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

721 more posts from this author

Comments (8)

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Carl

Their brand will be mold, twitter, and not wanting to admit there was mold.

about 7 years ago

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Todd

It's pretty ironic that they claim they are taking this action to protect their reputation. This will be a powerful lesson for companies interested in maintaining a strong online reputation. We discuss alternate options on the Yakuku blog.

about 7 years ago

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RantBombBoy

Well, if I were horizon, I would have contacted Bonnen and apologized if there was mold. And if horizon had in fact been defamed at all by the tweet, then they should have issued a statement through the press that was honest, saying that they will fix the problem.

People have the right to express their opinions about companies, public or not. Especially if it was true, which I believe it was. Why else would Horizon get on the defensive so fast?

Horizon looks even worse by the way they are handling all this.

about 7 years ago

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Tom Ollerton

I agree Horizon haven't handled this in a great way but they've got a shed load of PR out of it and no doubt a ton of traffic. To the casual observer who lives within their reach this stunt may lead them to the website and a new appartment.

Their approach to this subject has been sensational which although this rubs me up the wrong way this move will make them WAY more money than an advert in the local rag.

This reminds me of Ryanair's £1 to use the toilet fiasco which was SEO at its finest.

Tom Ollerton

about 7 years ago

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Adi @ The Management Blog

Seems things are not all that they seem.

http://www.horizonrealtygroup.com/UserFiles/file/PressRelease.pdf

The girl sued Horizon first, not the other way round.

about 7 years ago

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Tom Planer

Ouch. Twitter, mold and atrociously bad public relations. Do they think the $50,000 they might make back in damages is going to outweigh how much the negative publicity will damage their brand?

about 7 years ago

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Tom Planer

Hmmm. Interesting link from Adi. Perhaps they weren't in the wrong, but their PR department should have caught on to this so articles like the one above might have been written from a more impartial point of view.

about 7 years ago

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Stuart Crowder, Internet Marketing Consultant / Social Media Expert at n/a

Im loving this story more and more as it develop's!

I'd love to hear from Bonnen, anyone got a contact for her?

Now that would be intertesting!

about 7 years ago

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