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Are you financially liable for statements made on Facebook and Twitter? Kalamazoo, Michigan’s T&J Towing says yes, by filing a $750,000 lawsuit against a college student for libel and defamation of character. Autoblog reports that the student, Justin Kurtz, simply started up the Facebook group, “Kalamazoo Residents Against T&J Towing,” after sharing stories with others in his area that T&J had been towing cars inappropriately from legal parking spaces. Kurtz invited others to join the Facebook group and share their stories. Many have, and after browsing the page’s wall, it doesn’t seem like Kalamazoo residents have many nice things to say about T&J Towing.
T&J management filed the suit, which strangely includes an exact dollar amount (libel suits rarely specify a figure), citing loss of revenue, which brings up to two points:
First, it a company really loses $750,000 in two months because of a Facebook Group, then every time a business screws with anyone, you should start a Facebook Group for (or against) that cause.
Second, towing companies are one of the few industries with totally involuntary customers. Sure, you “may” have to park illegally first in order to deal with a tow company, but how often is your car on a tow truck because you want it to be? Odds are, never. So why would a bunch of people talking smack on the internet have anything to do with loss of revenue? As long as the owners of those lots, the people requesting cars get towed are happy, why would the “victims” complaining about it cause loss of revenue?
As a legal professor explains in the video below, T&J has to prove that the libelous statements originated from Kurtz and that they aren’t true in order to win this case, but they probably just want to scare people away from talking smack on the internet, showing that they aren’t afraid to sue you for it.