Streisand Effect Still Works: Vancouver Roofing Company Hit With Negative Reviews After Suing Over A Negative Review
from the how-do-you-not-expect-this? dept
Last week, KGW8 had an incredible story about how a couple in Vancouver, Washington were sued after leaving a 1-star review for Executive Roof Services (ERS). The defendants in the lawsuit, Autumn Knepper and Adam Marsh, were (reasonably!) annoyed about the treatment they received from the firm after their landlord had asked ERS to check out the roof to the house, after the couple found it leaking. The experience they had with ERS was not great:
Knepper said she called the office and talked with the receptionist, who she said was rude from the time she answered the phone.
?She refused to give me any information. She said I would have to get it from the landlord. I asked to speak with the manager and she laughed at me. She told me I was verbally abusing her and that she was the office manager. She hung up on me,? said Knepper.
Marsh said he called ERS and had a similar bad experience with the woman who answered the phone.
?She was just super rude, told me that she was office manager and there was no one else I could talk to and hung up on me,? said Marsh.
So they each wrote a 1-star review on Google explaining what happened. Apparently, the owner of ERS, Michael Mecham, didn’t take kindly to all of this. Again, according to KGW8:
?He told me that he knew where I lived. He said he had forensics guy and that he would gladly spend a hundred thousand dollars suing me,? said Knepper.
Knepper said the owner texted her and said the review needed to be taken down before ?more damages are done.?
Knepper said she called the police, which led to an officer asking Mecham to no longer contact the couple.
?We thought that was the end of it,? said Knepper.
But, instead, they were sued for defamation (the lawsuit was filed in Clark County, and it appears that the documents for the lawsuit are not readily available online or we’d include them here). The lawyer for ERS, David Bowser… um… doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about. He first told a reporter from KGW that it wasn’t about the review… and then seemed to immediately admit it was about the review:
Bowser said the couple did not hire ERS, the landlord did. Because of that he said they weren?t entitled to the information they requested — a project report and timeline — because they were not customers or clients of ERS. This is part of our exchange when we asked Bowser about the suit:
Cristin Severance, KGW: “Whether they’re paying customers or not, shouldn’t they be entitled to write about their experience? They said the receptionist was rude.”
David Bowser, attorney: “It depends why they did that. If they were doing it merely to express their opinion, that’s what other customers have done in the past. I don’t have an issue with that. ERS doesn’t have an issue with that. But when you cross the line and you use this forum to cause intentional harm to a family-owned business and hurt them and their employees and their business, you’ve crossed the line.”
Severance: “How did they intentionally harm ERS by writing about a rude receptionist?”
Bowser: “They intentionally harmed ERS by posting one-star reviews for the purpose of getting a report they weren’t entitled to.”
That’s… not how any of this works. At all. They have every right to write a review about their experience. Bowser seems particularly clueless about SLAPP suits. Washington just passed a new anti-SLAPP law, though technically it didn’t go into effect until this weekend. But Bowser should maybe learn what that means:
Bowser argues this is not a SLAPP filing.
Bowser: ?That is not what a SLAPP lawsuit is, a SLAPP is a motion. This is a lawsuit. The lawsuit asserts claims for defamation and for intentional interference with business expectancies,? said Bowser.
Wut? The “L” in SLAPP stands for lawsuit, guy. And this is a classic SLAPP. It’s a lawsuit over obviously protected speech, and was clearly filed to try to silence Knepper and Marsh. When the reporter asked Bowser how is this not trying to silence someone, Bowser responded that this was “not something that they legitimately had a basis to give an opinion on.” And, again, this is not how anything works. You get to give your opinion on anything you want. I get to give my opinion on this lawsuit — which is one of the SLAPPiest SLAPP suits I’ve seen in a long time. You don’t get to unilaterally declare that they can’t give their opinion.
But, of course, even more incredible is that, here, the lawyer for ERS has now admitted that it was their opinion. And, I mean, you don’t need to be even a terrible lawyer to know that opinions are not defamatory.
Either way, it’s not difficult to see what happened next. KGW8 is reporting that the owner of ERS says he had to take down his website after receiving a ton of 1-star reviews. Not that anyone should condone leaving made up 1-star reviews, but how the hell did neither he nor his foolish lawyer realize how this was going to end up?