Towing Company Sues Student For $750000 Over Facebook Page – Cease Your Hysterics

Stop complaining, stop shouting and take some pills for that blood pressure before that big red head of yours explodes. This is a non story, but is an interesting and cautionary tale about publishing things online.

The Consumerist and WoodTV.com are reporting this story about a student, Justin Kurtz, who started a Facebook page complaining about the practices of a company called T&J Towing.

The two sites above are painting T&J Towing as being some evil company because it is attempting to protect it’s reputation and is suing the student for defamation of character, libel  and loss of business to the sweet tune of $750,000.

T&J Towing of Kalamazoo, MI wants to send a message to anyone in the town who feels like complaining about the company online. They’ve filed a $750,000 defamation lawsuit against a Western Michigan University student for starting a Facebook page about them.

They are also, allowing the student to sound as if he has done nothing wrong by posting the following quote:

“It’s not like I was making untrue claims or anything,” he said. “It’s not like I had control over anything that everyone had posted the whole time. I told everyone to be professional, don’t post any threats. Just tell your story and that’s what pretty much everyone did.”

Nobody, is talking about the real truth of this matter, which the Inquisitor mentioned in their post, as being posted under the “info” tab of the Facebook page (while still not bringing attention to the importance of this quote).

It is my firm belief that my car was recently “broken into” but all that was stolen was my arboretums parking pass. This was an act by T&J so that they could charge me $120 to get my car out of impound. Please invite your friends to get justice against T&J!!!

T-and-J-Towing
That quote is a major "no-no" for bloggers with any kind of ethics.

It’s not about what other people posted, it’s about what Kurtz posted in the info tab. A place where only he (or a page administrator) can post.

That quote alone is basis for a defamation lawsuit. It is accusing T&J of a criminal act, without basis or proof. If I, or you to were make similar claims without proof against any person or company on our blogs, then we could and probably should also be sued for simply being grossly negligent and making unsubstantiated claims that charge others with criminal behavior.

So, all of you who were rooting for the student, starting your “RA RA” chants, painting placards and getting t-shirts with crappy slogans printed on them. Back off, back down and think.

I am not a lawyer, but regardless of T&J’s actual business practices, which neither you nor I have proof of, I would think that what Justin Kurtz wrote in the info tab of the Facebook page is perfect grounds for a lawsuit.

10 thoughts on “Towing Company Sues Student For $750000 Over Facebook Page – Cease Your Hysterics”

  1. His Statement was “it is my firm belief…”

    He does not state it is a fact, nor that he has “proof”, but that he has a belief that he has a real case, and inquiring if others have had a similar “experience” that they questioned how their car got “broken into.”

    Under “fair comment on a matter of public interest” this is defensible as to not be libelous, since “belief” or “opinion” is not a “false statement of fact” and thus the towing company has no case.

    This also seems to be a case of “contract” as most towing for “violations” can be, thus t&J already has a contract with the city or school, meaning he is not going to be “losing business” over this. And even if he did…at a price of $75/ towing, he is losing out of 100,000 towing jobs from a little rant on Facebook? This is one of those cases where the company in question draws more attention and ire to themselves because of their “outrage”

    If this kid has nothing but “belief” then then his case is going nowhere… end of story, and T&J has nothing to worry about, but now they have public opinion (well… except yours of course) against them as well.
    .-= JayMonster´s last blog ..JayMonster: @Mom101 it tells you why "consumers" aren’t ad people. As much as it is, "Nike" is being talked about and in people’s minds =-.

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    1. Read the first line of the section you highlighted… the phrase stated is “It is my firm belief…”

      The part you quoted is the explaination of such a belief. The “Why” he believes it.

      That being said… I do completely agree with your sentiment about people needing to take responsibility for what they write. A great example I am sure you saw (or remember) was the “mommyblogger” that started a virtual flash mob because her “child was taken away by TSA.” Only it was never true… nor did she ever come clean, nor did she apologize for the ruse. I agree you should be held liable for your words. (Just in the case you sited, I am not as sure that it is easily clear who is in the wrong, or if the “damges” are justifyable.

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    2. JayMonster, in a way you’re right. He did say it was his belief that the car was broken into – but… When he said…

      “This was an act by T&J so that they could charge me $120 to get my car out of impound. Please invite your friends to get justice against T&J!!!”

      He not only qualified his statement of belief as being a fact (“This was an act by”), he compounded it by inciting a call to get “justice”.

      And as for the “mommyblogger TS”A thing.. oh yeah, I remember. My rants surrounding that were some of my most popular posts for fall of last year.

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    3. Also, I can say this for fact: On or around April 12, right around when Justin met with his lawyer after being served his papers, the info page DID NOT say “It is my firm belief”. If you go to the hate sight ~April12 you will see where it says “Info changed”. This was added around this date.

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  2. Also, the damages may not relate to the companies current contract, but to other contracts that they may be attempting to win, and future contracts or even the extension of the existing contract once it expires.

    An no, I never said that I was not against the companies actions, I just don’t like the way they are automatically being put to blame for protecting their business.

    Bloggers, Facebook users, and everybody else who publishes words needs to realize that there are consequences to what you write and do.

    Just because 99% of people don’t fall foul of those consequences doesn’t mean that they don’t exist and that they won’t come back to bite you in the arse some day.

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  3. As a student, I feel the need to chime in.

    First off, if this kid isn’t a journalist, or interested, he has no idea what ethics he needs to follow. Still, that doesn’t excuse his writing. Ignorence does not mean innocence.

    BUT

    I do firmly believe that T&J is taking some extreme measures to solve the situation. Really? $750,000 bucks in damages? Come on now.

    I think the appropriate course of action would’ve been for the company to ask him to take it down until the investigation into the matter *is complete*.

    Also, we youngins’ tend to get a little emotional. What I see here is a lot of venting, Facebook just enables us to let our venting go public.

    T&J has overreacted IMO, and maybe should toughen up a lil’. I know a kid with a Facebook page can be scary, but damn, $750,000 dollars scary?

    Let it go.

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    1. $750000 may appear like a lot, but they would stand to lose a heck of lot more if they lose a service contract or two in the future because of actions like this. And the one thing that is very hard to measure is how much money is lost, because very few people will actually admit to, or tell a company why they didn’t win a contract that was put out to tender.

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