If you’re someone who likes to vent about work on social media, here’s a cautionary tale that might change your mind about the wisdom of that behavior. A woman in the United Kingdom is facing a lawsuit worth more than three quarters of a hundred grand after she complained about late payment from a client for her business on Twitter.
Lesley Kemp, a 55-year old typist who lives in Milton Keynes, took to the 140-character network to complain that one of her clients, Kirby Kearns, was late with payment for her services. She told the Daily Mail that the amount owed “was only a small amount of money that we argued over, but because I was broke and stressed I took to Twitter and went on a bit of a rant.”
That rant, as it turns out, could make Kemp significantly more broke; Kearns, a businessman based in Qatar, is now suing Kemp for her public comments and seeking £50,000 ($76,255 USD) in damages as a result. Worse yet, he’s looking to do so through the British High Court, which will make legal costs skyrocket. Kemp’s attorney, Robert Dougans – who is representing her on a no win, no fee basis – told the Guardian that the lawsuit has turned out to be “rather tortuous,” adding that “the claim against [Kemp] is for up to £50,000 damages and a high court trial is likely to cost £100,000 plus.”
Kearns isn’t stopping there, however; Dougans said that the litigation-happy businessman now wants to add Twitter as a defendant. “She’s not denying she made the comments,” he said. “Her defense is justification and fair comment.” It’s unclear why Twitter would be added to the case; presumably, it would be as some form of distribution of the libelous material, but that seems a tenuous argument to make at best. Adding Twitter to the case seems to muddy the issue at best, if not outright seem to undercut Kearns’ chances of winning altogether.
For her part, Kemp regrets the entire situation. “There were a lot of emails between us before I took to Twitter. He said that I was damaging his reputation and it was all done maliciously,” she said. “I am not used to freelance work and didn’t understand there is a culture of late payments and it’s not uncommon to have to wait months to receive your fee.” That said, she’s not backing down easily.
“I’m a bit feisty and very determined, and if I’m going down then I’m going to come up with a bang,” she said, somewhat confusingly. “I can’t even begin to describe the stress that it has put me under.” And, of course, the only thing that makes stress better is… a legal battle?