What happens when a house sitter, ad sales rep, real estate agent, and TV station collide in a maze of ambition? A realtor defamation lawsuit, of course!
Real Estate Agent Dissed On Local TV
Super-realtor Cheska Pennyworth* (*not her real name) peddles properties on Philadelphia’s Main Line — earning about $500,000 a year.
But in 2013, scandal struck. A CBS affiliate station allegedly caught Pennyworth, on video, defacing a competitor’s “For Sale” sign under the cover of night. Plus, reporters accused her of going “Whitewalker”, arranging dead animals on a rival lawn to deter potential buyers.
Two Hours Before Airing, Agent Alerted Of Segment; Immediately Calls For Help
Two hours before airing, the station called Pennyworth, gave a head’s up about the segment, and asked for a reaction.
Pennyworth immediately pinged a friend at the station, explained the situation, and insisted that she couldn’t be the person in the video. HELP!
Pennyworth’s friend alerted superiors, and the station brass declared, “the show must go on!” Other studios had the story, too; but CBS had the video. Airing was an imperative!
Within days of the segment’s debut, angry viewers assaulted Pennyworth 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, From Where Did The Video Come? (Enter The House-sitter)
He’s a special effects artist who calls himself “Gore God”; Pennyworth calls him a “deranged house sitter,” and the feds know him as Sam Smith (not real name).
Why do we care about Smith? Because he’s the person who leaked the tape, allegedly.
Who was Smith’s contact at CBS3? Kath Daye (not real name), from the CBS3 ad-sales department. According to Pennyworth’s lawsuit, Daye is “known as ‘crazy blond chic’ by CBS3 personnel.”
Pennyworth claims “an interaction” between she and Daye over the sale of a house led to the video.
In fact, Pennyworth believes that Smith and Daye a) made a bogus complaint to the police, b) edited footage, and c) leaked the fake footage to CBS3. The realtor’s lawsuit calls it the “trifecta of false claims” orchestrated and executed by Smith and Daye.
Why does Pennyworth think Smith’s involved? Well, apparently, a co-worker mole overheard Daye admonishing someone over the phone, “you sent us the wrong video” and “you promised me that video so I could get us an exclusive!”
Realtor Defamation Lawsuit: It Wasn’t Me! I Was Framed!
Pennyworth filed a realtor defamation lawsuit, additionally claiming false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plus, she wants an immediate injunction that prevents parties from destroying relevant documents.
The station has yet to issue a correction or apology, and at the time of this writing, its defense strategy is unclear. Will they plead “truth”? Reporter privilege? We’ll have to wait.
Will The Real Estate Agent Win This Realtor Defamation Lawsuit?
Unless vital information is missing from public reports, if Pennyworth is NOT the person in the video, this is a defamation slam-dunk.
Without Disclosure, Station Probably In Deep Water
Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Smith DID see Pennyworth pulling a rock-star-in-a-hotel-room on the lawn, but didn’t have a camera at the time of the incident. But, to help his friend at the TV station, he decided to make a re-enactment video.
Even under those circumstances, the defendant’s road to victory is tough. Because 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 it may not work since Daye’s phone call. Moreover, since Pennyworth’s friend took doubts to higher-ups before it aired, she can easily argue that the station had reason to doubt the story.
If it is Pennyworth in the video, she’s probably 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.