The internet has been a great tool for those who feel they’ve been treated unfairly by companies large and small in business transactions.
But if you’ve ever come home and typed off a ranty screed or complained on a social networking site, you could end up on the receiving end of a lawsuit. That’s what happened to a student named Justin Kurtz of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Kurtz is the administrator of a Facebook page titled “Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing.” Under the info tab, Kurtz airs a grievance against the company:
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!!!
The page has over 5,300 members, but it is not clear how many joined after the case received media attention. Because Kurtz created the page, T&J is suing the young man for $750,000 in damages for slander and defamation of character. Kurtz believes that his actions are covered under the premise of truth being an absolute defense against libel:
“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.”
And while the amount of compensation sought is daunting, Kurtz has a pretty large ally on his side- the Better Business Bureau, who maintains a rating of “F” for the company, has featured Justin’s story on their site. The BBB says:
BBB of Western Michigan has T & J listed with an “F” rating.
Their Reliability Report on the company shows a pattern of “complaints in which consumers allege the company towed vehicles in error when either the vehicle had the required parking pass, or the vehicle was not parked in a designated no parking area.”
T&J Towing has not responded to media inquiries about their towing practices or the Kurtz case.