The Small-Business Owner's Guide to Advertising Injury

Chapter 6: The High Cost of Advertising Injury Lawsuits
Part 4: Social Media Defamation or Grasping at Straws: The Example of the $50k Tweet

In the case Horizon Group v. Bonnen, Horizon Group Management LLC filed a lawsuit against Amanda Bonnen, a 25-year-old renter in one of its buildings, for venting on her Twitter account about the conditions of her apartment.

According to the realty group, Bonnen damaged its professional reputation when she tweeted, "Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it's okay." Horizon sought $50,000 in damages.

Bonnen's attorneys successfully argued that her statement's literary and social context mattered in whether or not it should be considered factual. They noted that since Bonnen only speculates what Horizon thinks, her tweet should be viewed as a personal opinion rather than a statement of fact. Since she didn't mention where she lives or whether or not she actually lives in property managed by Horizon, the tweet lacked the factual content to effectively damage the landlord's reputation.

And the judge agreed, saying that the tweet was "really too vague" and "lacks any context" to meet the legal standards for libel. The case was dismissed.

Even if the claim never made it to trial, fighting a frivolous advertising injury lawsuit can still cost a considerable amount. To respond to a claim like the one Bonnen faced, your business would have to hire a lawyer and pay that lawyer to respond to the charges and make preparations for trial. For most small-business owners, those legal defense fees alone can be enough to strain an already stretched bank account.

Next: Part 5: What to Do When You're Sued for Social Media Advertising Injuries

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