Michigan Lawsuit Between Towing Company and Student Ends With No Payments

Dec 22nd, 2010 | By | Category: National News

The highly publicized litigation between a Kalamazoo, Mich., towing company and a Western Michigan University student who criticized the company on Facebook will end without payment for either side, according to a news report.

T&J Towing sued student Justin Kurtz for $750,000 in April after he created a Facebook page called “Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing,” in reaction to his car being towed from his apartment complex, the report states.

The two parties agreed this week with a legal finding that determined the lawsuit and a countersuit were both worthless, meaning their cases won’t go to trial and will eventually be dismissed.

In its lawsuit, T&J alleged Kurtz used the Facebook page to post untrue claims and caused the company to lose business, according to the report. Kurtz countersued, denying the company’s claims.

Thousands of people joined the Facebook group, which had 13, 859 members at the report’s last count. Company president Joseph Bird said that because of the negative publicity, his towing company suffered financially, and he lost about $174,000 in profits this year compared to 2009, the report states. On Aug. 9 he filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

Bird claimed he wanted to give his business a fresh start, so he laid off several employees and became more personally involved with operations, according to the report. He filed his business under a new corporation name, Kalamazoo’s TJ Towing Inc.

The lawsuit turned into bigger issues about freedom of speech and so-called “Slapp” lawsuits. Slapp litigation involves typically meritless defamation suits filed against people who speak out against businesses or government officials and are intended to silence critics who don’t want to pay for a costly legal defense to fight a lawsuit, the report states.