Miami Real Estate Agent is being sued for $25M for…

comments he made on his blog about a developer!Wow!The short version:  The blogger said that a development was sure to have lots of problems along the lines of what happened when the developer went bankrupt in the ’80s.   Problem is, the developer never went bankrupt (although he admits financial problems).Interestingly, the law professor who is interviewed doesn’t think the developer has much of a case against the real estate agent, but even if the case is dropped, damage has already been done to the agent, Lucas Lechuga, considering his broker let him go and he’s now got to pay legal fees!

”We just don’t condone making statements, especially negative statements, about anyone, so we have terminated our relationship with our associate,” said EWM President Ron Shuffield.

Interestingly, another Ron Shuffield goes on to say:

“I viewed these statements to be more negative in tone than just providing information,” Shuffield said, adding the firm wouldn’t have hired Lechuga had it known about the blog…”We want to encourage associates to be a positive source of information,” Shuffield said.

Interestingly, I wonder if this will put the scare on other Miami bloggers and in particular, other Esslinger Wooten Maxwell Realtors like Kevin Tomlinson of the South Beach Real Estate blog.However, in therms of the story I’m a bit conflicted.   While I hate to see a blogger get kicked around for comments he (apparently) thought were true, there’s definitely a lesson to be learned about the need to be smart in your blogging.By the way, the blog post in question has been edited to take away the incorrect facts, but can still be found here:  Closing to Begin at the Opera Tower Very Soon.UPDATE:  There’s now a video

11 responses

  1. I’m not conflicted that he was fired. Maybe it’s just me. But when I see a product that I wouldn’t recommend to me readers, most of the time, I just don’t mention it.

    As someone who has spent much of my life publicly representing other companies, it just seems like the right thing to do. If you only represent yourself, blast away. But if your comments reflect the company you work for, it only makes sense that you should be speaking inline with that company’s protocol.

  2. Hey Dustin

    In Miami there are a lot of frustrated people, especially developers, that are looking for someone to vent their rage on.

    This story made the local CBS news tonight and, if you ask me, the story only highlighted the developer’s previous track record and showed shots of his black and empty tower.

    It will be interesting to see, if it does go to court, what the judge decides — and how it affects bloggers and their opinions. Kinda scary.

  3. Dustin,

    It was great hearing you speak when I was at the Real Estate Connect conference in NYC. I wish we could have met.

    The interesting thing about this case is that I did not have my license hung with EWM when I wrote that post. They are coming after EWM because their parent company is owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. I have no ill feelings against EWM. I fully understand their position on the situation given that they are owned by a much larger entity.

    The reason why I wrote the post is because I was receiving a lot of phone calls from contract holders of the development telling me that they had no intention on closing. In my opinion, a blog is a vehicle to share opinions, thoughts and concerns. I was sharing my concern with potential buyers that the condo development was too risky to buy in. About three weeks ago, a local newspaper disclosed a story about a class-action lawsuit against the developer filed by contract holders wanting to get out. This topic was an area of concern, and one that I felt that needed to be disclosed to my readers.

    I had no malicious intent against the developer nor the condo development. I was merely sharing my opinion with the readers of my blog and the concerns of current contract holders.

  4. ”We want to encourage associates to be a positive source of information,” Shuffield said.”

    Is that WEB 1.5?

  5. I liked the quote I read from the developer where he said he gave properties back to the bank (but did not go bankrupt!) yet he only lost his own money, not other people’s. Does he think that the bank did not lose money on the properties he “gave back” (to a bank that never owned them in the first place…)

    Like Todd, I am very careful about what I write about. Oh, it is tempting some times, but really not worth it.

  6. Lucas (Miamiinvestments…),

    I wish we had met at RE Connect b/c you obviously have a good story to tell! 🙂

  7. […] 29, 2008 by Dustin …legal bills for Lucas.    And as crazy as that might sound at first… I think it actually makes […]

  8. […] not an attorney. A law professor quoted in the Herald article doesn’t see much of a case. But as Dustin correctly points out, the damage is likely already done to the […]

  9. A very simple truth here which every journalistic knows–you always get your facts straight before you publish. To make a statement which is false is libel. Just because he’s a “humble blogger” is a cop-out. This whole “social networking” thing is going to shakeout and start getting some form and function and one of those will be verification of a statement prior to publication. You make a statement as he did, it goes “viral” and, like any rumor, gets legs and gets noticed! I’m not chilled by this whatsoever. If I make a statement saying someone had gone bankrupt it better be verified and have some context to the point I’m making on the blog. I thought his statement defending his use of the word was very lame. Reminded me of our ex-President with his tortured definition of what “sex” is?

  10. Mike,

    While I don’t blame you a bit for wanting to hold Lucas up to the same standards as journalists, I’m just not sure that’s appropriate. And while I agree that his comments were tortured, that just makes him a bad spokesperson, and doesn’t necessarily indicate that bloggers should be held to the same level of scrutiny.

    Here’s a thought: What if in his original post he had said, “others have told me he went bankrupt in the past”, as oppose to “he went bankrupt”? It takes a little bit of the “punch” out of it, but would have been factually accurate… and reminds me more of current smear-style presidential campaign politics! 😉

    My thought is that he went wrong when he “erased” his error as oppose to sucked-it-up and acknowledged his error directly in the original post. Had he just acknowledged his error in his original post and explained why he made the mistake, I’d be much more supportive of his cause.

    Bloggers are going to continue to say things that they believe to be true based on conversations that they had… As long as there is no malice, I think it would be bad for us as a society if each of these slip-ups turned into multi-million dollar lawsuits.

  11. My thought is that he went wrong when he “erased” his error as oppose to sucked-it-up and acknowledged his error directly in the original post. Had he just acknowledged his error in his original post and explained why he made the mistake, I’d be much more supportive of his cause.


    Second – I’d argue that we all have an obligation to the truth. Journalist, Realtor, blogger, whatever.

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