What do you get when a house sitter, an ad salesperson, a real estate agent and a TV station collide in the maze of ambition? Why, a realtor defamation lawsuit, of course!
Real Estate Agent Disparaged On Local TV
The plaintiff in this intriguing real estate defamation story is Andrea Straub – super realtor to the well-healed of Philadelphia. For years, Straub had built a credible professional reputation; publicly, she was known as an effective house jockey on the Main Line, earning, on average, $500,000 a year.
In June 2013, however, a wave of vicissitude crashed into Straub after a local CBS affiliate aired an “exclusive” that allegedly showed her, under the cover of night, defacing a neighbor’s for sale sign. The story also accused the realtor of scattering dead animals on her neighbor’s lawn to turn off potential buyers.
Two Hours Before Airing, Agent Alerted Of Segment; Immediately Calls For Help
Two hours before the piece aired, Straub got a courtesy call from the station. A producer informed her that the story was in the proverbial can, and asked for a reaction.
Straub immediately contacted a friend who worked at the station, quickly explained the situation and that she couldn’t be the person in the video, and then asked her friend for help. According to reports, Straub’s friend alerted superiors of the situation – and explained Straub’s objections.
Ever concerned with ratings, however, the brass at CBS3 decided to show the video. Supposedly, they wanted to gain the “upper hand” over other newsrooms that were already running with the story, but didn’t have “the video.” So, to the air it went.
Within days of the segment’s debut, angry viewers assaulted Straub’s voicemail and inbox with death threats and other “pleasantries.” In short order, the once-flush agent found herself less $16M in listings and essentially “run out of town.”
So, Where Did The Vandalism Video Come From?
He calls himself “Gore God” (he’s a special effects artist), Straub calls him a “deranged house sitter” and the feds know him as Eric Welsch. Welsch is important to our tale of realtor defamation woe because reports imply that he was the person who gave the tape to the TV station.
Who was Welsch’s contact at CBS3? Kim Papay, from the CBS3 ad-sales department. According to Straub’s lawsuit, Papay is “known as ‘crazy blond chic’ by CBS3 personnel,”
Straub claims “an interaction” that she and Papay had in April 2013 over the sale of a house ultimately led to the video. A bogus complaint to the police, edited footage and subsequent hand-off to CBS3, are what Straub describes in her lawsuit at the “trifecta of false claims” orchestrated and executed by Papay and Welsch.
Why does Straub suspect Papay’s involvement? Well, apparently, Straub was told that Paypay was overheard at the CBS station admonishing someone over the phone, “you sent us the wrong video” and “you promised me that video so I could get us an exclusive!”
Relator Defamation Lawsuit Filed
Not surprisingly, Straub filed a realtor slander lawsuit – with alacrity. She’s charging defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress; plus, she wants an immediate injunction preventing parties from destroying documents or emails that may be relevant to the case.
The station has yet to issue a correction or apology, and at the time of this writing, their defense strategy is unclear. Will they plead “truth”? Reporter privilege? We’ll have to wait to see.
Will The Real Estate Agent Win This Realtor Defamation Lawsuit?
Unless vital information is missing from public reports, and Straub really is NOT the person in the video, this is pretty much as slam-dunk as it gets with regards to defamation lawsuits.
Without Disclosure, Station Probably In Deep Water
Even if, let’s just say, for $#!Ts and Giggles, that “Gore God” DID see Straub pulling a rock-star-in-a-hotel-room on the lawn, but he didn’t have a camera handy at the time of the incident. So, he decided to re-enact the event as a means to help his friend at the TV station. Again, this is just a hypothetical, “what if.” Even under those circumstances, the defendant cannot win. If CBS3 showed a video of someone re-enacting the vandalism, and did not disclose that fact, the station is liable for slander.
CBS3 could also argue reporter’s privilege, but that possibility may be moot since Papays phone call calls into question the ethics of the station, how they got it. Moreover, Straub’s friend took doubts to higher-ups before it aired. Straub can easily argue that the CBS team had reason to believe the story was not true.
If it is Straub in the video, she may be out of luck.
Contact A Realtor Defamation Lawyer
If you are a real estate agent caught in a defamation debacle, who is considering suing for defamation, get in touch with us. Our firm – Kelly / Warner – has handled countless defamation cases, including real estate defamation suits. Oftentimes, slander and libel suits are remedied quickly and never end up going to trial. Get in touch today to learn more about your realtor defamation legal options.