GENEVA – A Geneva real estate agent who is being sued for defamation has asked a judge to dismiss the case, claiming her comments on social media about her pet's death at a local dog daycare and grooming business were not defamation, but a warning to others.
Michael Eckblade, owner of A New Dog luxury dog boarding service, filed suit April 2 in Kane County against Patti Rambo, the managing broker and owner of Miscella Real Estate in Geneva, alleging that her social media posts damaged his business. Eckblade is seeking more than $150,000 in damages.
A New Dog is now closed.
In a May 3 filing that seeks to dismiss Eckblade’s lawsuit, Rambo’s attorney, Joshua Feagans asserted, “As a result of the suspicious nature of Phoebe’s death and the unprofessional, callous and inhumane manner in which Eckblade handled himself thereafter, Rambo sought to warn the public about Eckblade and the circumstances surrounding his handling of Phoebe’s death.”
Phoebe was a mixed-breed dog that died Aug. 12, 2017 while in the care of A New Dog, the lawsuit states.
Rambo claims the hours-long delay between the time of the dog’s death and when Rambo was told about it prevented testing for drugs or other unnatural substances in the dog’s body, according to court papers.
“Seeking to blame his latest failure on his customers rather than himself, Eckblade filed the … lawsuit against five members of the public who took part in the social media commentary, including Rambo,” according to Rambo's court filing.
“While Rambo would relish the chance to prove the veracity of her social media comments,” the court filing states that Eckblade’s claims are “bald conclusions that Rambo’s statements are defamatory.”
Although Eckblade’s lawsuit asserts that social media comments ruined his business, he “fails to plead any facts to illustrate … that his business was thriving or even stable, prior to the social media comments … or to identify the customers he lost or the value of the business that was lost,” according to the filing.
In a response filed June 22, Eckblade’s attorney Peter Storm argued that the complaint should not be dismissed “unless it is clearly apparent that no set of facts can be proved that would entitle the plaintiff to recovery.” The response claims Rambo used her standing in the community as a real estate agent and on social media that presented Eckblade and his business in a false light.
Rambo “embarked on a campaign to shut down plaintiff’s business by posting false and defamatory statements of and concerning the plaintiff,” according to Eckblade's response.
In one of her postings, Rambo wrote, “We want them out of this business” and encouraged others to stand with her, according to the filing.
Rambo’s claim that her social media posts were intended as a warning is not consistent with her declared intention on social media to put A New Dog out of business, Eckblade's court filing states.
Eckblade's court filing asserts he is not required to plead evidence – not the identities of lost customers nor the dollar amount lost – but only facts.
A hearing on the motion to dismiss is scheduled July 19.