Updated: Monday, 12 Apr 2010, 6:22 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 12 Apr 2010, 4:53 PM EDT
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) - A Kalamazoo towing company that has received multiple complaints to the Better Business Bureau is suing the Western Michigan University student who started a Facebook page against the company.
The four-page lawsuit filed by T&J Towing against Justin Kurtz claims defamation of character and libel. It asks for $750,000 from Kurtz, who received the papers Friday.
"It was $750,000 for slander and defamation of character -- lost income, I guess," he said. "It's kind of shocking. It's a little comical for how much he's suing me."
Kalamazoo Residents against T&J Towing is the Facebook page Kurtz started. He simply asked others to share their stories -- something he doesn't see as libel, Kurtz told 24 Hour News 8 on Monday.
"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."
Some students writing complaints on the page claimed T&J Towing had inappropriately towed their cars while they were in their own apartment complexes or in visitor parking lots.
Standard procedure is for the company's lawyer to write Kurtz a letter and have him retract the comments, Cooley Law Professor Curt Benson said.
The amount of money cited in the suit also is unusual, he added. Normally, a number isn't specified in damages. T&J Towing's lawyer would have to prove Kurtz was lying, and the company faces a tough case, Benson said.
"So frankly, he's got an awfully hard lawsuit to win here and frankly, I get the impression it's more like him sending a message to the community, 'don't say anything negative against me because I'll file a lawsuit against you,' " he said.
Part of the legal debate is over jurisdiction on the Web.
"Well, in the Internet, you're injured all over the world," Benson said. "And so the big question is, could you, if you had a home in Florida, and I posted something in Kalamazoo -- you read it in Florida -- could you sue me in Florida?"
Regardless, paying $750,000 is not part of Kurtz's budget or future plans.
"And the first few years out of college, I probably still won't be making a tenth of that," he said. "I don't know where he thinks he'll get the money from."
The Facebook page now has more than 3,800 members.
24 Hour News 8 has contacted T&J Towing for comment but has not received a call back.