Trial Date Set for CAR Lawsuit Against Chicago Realtor Andrea Geller

by Peter Thomas Ricci


Andrea Geller

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.

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  • Don Battaglia says:

    One correction, Peter — the burden of proof lies entirely with the Plaintiffs as to whether Ms. Geller’s comments rose to the level of defamation. Ms. Geller can, and will, show that they did not. However, the assertion that truth is an absolute defense to a claim of defamation is quite accurate.

  • Lyn Sims says:

    I wish Andrea Geller the best in her proceedings against CAR. Evidently one cannot question NAR leadership nor it’s finances without being bullied into submission through the courts.

  • Miriam Bernstein says:

    I also wish Andrea Geller the best. I am a bit surprised that this is ongoing…seems a very large reaction to something that everyone would have forgotten by now were it not for this lawsuit.

  • Mark says:

    Yes Miriam Bernstein it does seem like it is simply a way to keep peoples mouths shut… It also makes one think what are they hiding…

  • Paul says:

    Mark, I thought the same thing. The association should be obligated to show audited financial statements with a qualified auditors opinion of the associations financial condition.

  • Arthur Rubalcaba says:

    That pie chart that they publish as a financial statement for the members borders on the absurd. I don’t believe it would qualify in lieu of the Form 990 that it submits to the IRS nor should it be a substitute for a financial report to its members.

  • Barbara Matthopoulos, Chicago Association of REALTORS says:

    For Chicago REALTOR members interested, since 2012 we have posted our financial information on ChicagoREALTOR.com – About Us – Financial Information. Please visit our Web site, and log in with your member ID and password, to review five years of audit reports and tax returns. Happy Holidays to you, all.

  • Sheila Sutliff says:

    Wow, you get to pay dues, donate your time, speak up and get sued. Great Association. Glad I am no longer apart of it and so wish I could be on the jury if there is one. Good Luck and let the truth set you free.

  • Barb Davis-Hassan, CCIM, CRB, CRS, CBR, GRI says:

    I also wish Andrea Geller all the best and would encourage all of her supporters and fellow Realtors to assist with her legal fund that has been set up by a friend. The link is http://www.gofundme.com/js91ys.

  • scott bader says:

    Wow I thought Chicago way was just with politics not this. Do you realise what you are doing? This is just silly. Go Andrea!

  • Nathan fred Shaw says:

    The association, just like others, is trying to stifle the voice of opposition thru their strong arm tactics. Realtors must stand up tall and let these associations know that they cannot push the membership around. Never in history has a membership organization been so over controlling. Time for DOJ to take a close look.

  • Susan says:

    It’s good to see support like this.

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