After its original filing in 2012, the Chicago Association of Realtors’ lawsuit against local Realtor Andrea Geller is finally going to trial.
It was more than two years ago – Sept. 5, 2012, to be exact – when the Chicago Association of Realtors (CAR) filed its lawsuit against Andrea Geller, suing the Coldwell Banker Realtor for defamation and seeking damages in excess of $50,000; but now, after an extensive period of depositions and discovery, a trial date of March 16 has finally been set, according to Geller’s attorney.
CAR’s lawsuit stemmed from comments Geller made in response to an Aug. 20, 2012 Chicago Agent magazine story concerning the impeachment and removal of 2011-2012 association president Bob Floss. In an exclusive interview with Chicago Agent, Floss alleged he was removed from his position for political reasons, specifically that he requested financial scrutiny that the association was unwilling to provide.
Defamation Lawsuit Filed Against Andrea Geller
In response to Chicago Agent‘s story on Floss’ removal, Geller commented both on the story and on the popular “Raise the Bar in Real Estate” Facebook page, making several statements about the association and questioning not only its finances but also the integrity of its management, including CEO Ginger Downs (who is named as a co-plaintiff in the association’s lawsuit).
Then, three weeks after our original story ran, CAR filed its lawsuit against Geller, alleging that she “knowingly or recklessly published a series of statements on the internet (sic) falsely claiming the existence of financial irregularities and dishonest actions by Chicago Association of Realtors® and Virginia Downs.
“Geller’s libelous postings constitute defamation per se,” the complaint stated, which can be read in full here (Geller’s comments on both the Chicago Agent website and “Raise the Bar” are quoted beginning on page seven).
Geller “Vigorously” Fighting Lawsuit
In an interview with Chicago Agent, Geller’s attorney, Donald Battaglia of Battaglia Law, vowed that Geller would be “vigorously” fighting CAR’s lawsuit. Though Battaglia’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit was denied, Battaglia said that he and Geller would be using the lawsuit as a platform to truly dissect CAR’s finances, and that through discovery, they would be analyzing the very documents initially requested by Floss.
And in a new interview last week with Chicago Agent, Battaglia reiterated that focus, saying that because CAR’s lawsuit alleges that Geller’s statements were defamatory, that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff: it will be CAR’s job, Battaglia said, to prove to the jury that its finances are in fact sound, and Geller’s comments were therefore defamatory; by contrast, for Battaglia and Geller, it will be their job in their defense to prove her allegations that the association’s finances are not sound, and thus her comments were accurate.
“Truth is the absolute defense in a defamation suit,” Battaglia said.
We reached out to CAR for a statement, but they declined to comment; to read the association’s original comments, when the lawsuit was filed in 2012, click hear.