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Will you like $25 million to go with that salad?

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Lettuce for breakfast


Enough is enough, I have Lechuga and Hollow up to my eyeballs already! (this of course is only my opinion). Because I’m in Miami, every other local blogger is writing about the lawsuit and with every right. Some are scared, some are being extra cautious and adding disclaimers to their sites, and some are in complete awe (I’m one of those).

So here’s my interpretation of the scoop:

Lucas Lechuga, a Miami Realtor who specializes in condos along the Biscayne Corridor from Brickell to Wynwood wrote a post about a particular building (The Opera Tower). In that post he gives his opinion about the building and mentions the developer and bankruptcy (the post HAS been taken down so excuse the missing link). Lechuga’s broker at the time asked him to remove the post or edit it and Lechuga chose to keep the post and find another broker- (read Sellsius’ Real Estate Blogger Says – Take This Job And Shove It, I Ain’t Working Here No More – in my opinion this post was very timely because it was around the time real estate bloggers started discussing broker censorship and control). Then this week Lechuga gets sued by the developer for $25 million and also gets fired from EWM, his new brokerage. THAT’s what I call a couple of months packed with excitement!

Here’s what Miami is saying about the whole ordeal…I wander if we will all get sued at the end.

  • Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal who authors Transit Miami started the ball rolling:

I believe this whole thing has been blown disproportionately out of the water, starting with an exorbitant $25 million for defamation. How can anyone quantify that much in damages to begin with? Luckily for Lechuga, the lawsuit likely won’t hold much water in court according to herald interviews with local attorneys. From what I can tell, this has the appearance of a glorified publicity stunt amid a crumbling housing market. Who am I to say anyway? Only time will tell…

In the growing universe of local bloggers, Miami Realtor Lucas Lechuga carved out an early space. He is a real estate professional who writes a blog to enlighten readers and inquisitive, prospective buyers and sellers of his opinions about the real state of the condo market in one of the nation’s most overbuilt cities.

Seems that an allegation that Developer Tibor Hollo went bankrupt in the 80s is the sticking point, along with some predictions that his current projects are headed for failure. Doesn’t this sort of alternate-revenue-seeking lend credence to the latter assertion, though?

  • Steve from “Klotz” and in “Blood”

Always happy to encounter stories like this one…..Evidently this litigation had nothing to do with his looks, either.

And please don’t miss Joe Ferrara’s legal take on the issue – Those guys from Sellsius are DA BOMB! (opinion again)

So what does this mean for Real Estate Bloggers? Does it mean we have to state “this is my opinion” on every single statement we make? Will a disclaimer be enough? Should we be scared? Should Lechuga run with his tail between his legs?

The fact is that Lechuga has and will get a lot of press from this and it can’t be all THAT bad, although I would not like to be in his shoes.

Don’t be afraid to give your opinion but check the facts. I do think it’s unfortunate that EWM fired Lechuga, especially after I’ve talked to Beth Butler, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of EWM, so many times and she seems to be such an advocate of blogging.

This is the lame statement given by Ron Shuffield, president of EWM to the Miami Herald, “”We just don’t condone making statements, especially negative statements, about anyone, so we have terminated our relationship with our associate.” (please note that calling Mr. Shuffield’s statement “lame” is only my opinion – it is not meant to be a fact or a personal representation of Mr. Shuffield, EWM or any of EWM’s affiliates) GEESH!!! is that what the blogging world will turn to?

Ines is all Miami, all the time. A Miami Beach Realtor® with Majestic properties, Ines authors Miamism.com, PrimeMiamiBeach.com, and MiamismPix.com and is always on communication's leading edge. She goes out of her way to engage and be engaged, often using Mojitos to keep the mood light and give everything she does a Miami flavor. You can find her goofing off or instigating trouble at Twitter, Flickr, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Carole Cohen

    January 30, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    It is unfortunate. I am so fortunate that the Pres. of Howard Hanna is not only supportive but talks about my blog to others a lot. I’m not going to change my style but I always pretend my Mother and a client are on my shoulders when I blog. I don’t know what else we can do. In my humble opinion, a lawsuit was bound to happen somewhere, they affect all other aspects of our lives.

    Good post, Ines

  2. Chris Griffith

    January 30, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    You got ’em Ines and they’re brass.

  3. Jason Elder

    January 30, 2008 at 6:00 pm

    I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Jason.

  4. Ines

    January 30, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Carole – the blogging world is too new to know how things will turn out – I think the discussion at Jay’s post is really important for everyone to follow as well…..and unfortunately this will be the first of many.

    Chris – I borrowed them from you 🙂

  5. Sparky

    January 30, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    Wherever Ines posts, there go I… I think there are times when we need to be guarded regarding the information we dispense and to whom. Here in WA State, a statutory relationship can be established by simply giving counsel. I wouldn’t want to provide advice to someone who is already under contract with another agent, or is involved in an ‘open’ transaction. But that’s just me….

  6. Ines

    January 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    Jason – thanks so much for that – I like to hear someone is reading what I write.

    Sparky – did you bring some crab to share? seriously, we get comfortable in our skin and although it’s ok to express our opinion we need to understand that there is malice in this world. I really wish Lucas the best of luck and hope EWM reconsiders.

  7. Ann Cummings

    January 30, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    How very sad that our society is so litigious….. I do wish Lucas the very best in this situation.

  8. Jonathan Dalton

    January 30, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    The first question I asked the owners of my new real estate brokerage is if they have any issue – any issue with a real estate blog as marketing. The answer was no. They actually have their own blog (though they need to cut and paste newspaper articles a little less and link a bit more, but that’s just me.)

    I maintain this suit isn’t about a dollar figure but about the chilling effect on real estate conversation. I keep coming back to that term because it’s appeared in multiple freedom-of-speech, freedom-of-the-press cases over the years. Or so I vaguely remember from Comm Law a billion or so years ago.

  9. Mark A.

    January 30, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    As a blogger, checking the facts prior to breaking a story (or even an opinion) goes without saying. After all, it’s the blogger’s credibility that’s at stake. I don’t know all the facts around LL’s case, although I’ve been reading a number of posts about it, in the past few days. But this case is important, because it will hopefully settle once and for all, where we as bloggers stand: Full transparency for consumers, or forget about Realtor blogging altogether. That is, if the parties to the lawsuit don’t decide to head towards a settlement (which happens all too often).

  10. Ines

    January 30, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Ann – it IS sad and more obvious when I hear kids saying “why don’t you sue him?” – it’s here in the US though, not so much in other countries.

    Jonathan – I’m glad to hear about your new brokerage and the best of luck with you as well. Real Estate conversation is where it’s at, and at the same time, truthful and open real estate conversation can get you in trouble.

    Mark – the case is very important to LL and to all of us – we’ll surely stay tunned to the results.

  11. Robert D. Ashby

    January 30, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    I don’t think the good bloggers out there have anything to worry about, at least not yet. Disclaimers are for those who have something to hide (my opinion). I am only concerned in regards to the fact I have lost faith in our legal system. Remember the golden rule: He who has the gold rules. That appears to be the case if this actually goes to court, or even settles out. What am I concerned with; our blgos being told what we can or cannot say as dictated by those who have the most money.

  12. Ines

    January 30, 2008 at 9:00 pm

    Robert – that is definitely a legitimate concern – when you look at the scheme of things, one single real estate agent in a sea of hundreds (even thousands) has to go to court because a big dog frowns on what he said. I guess it’s pretty flattering for LL to know that the developer thinks of him as such an influential person, most people would have never even found out about the project if it weren’t for all the mess – concerned about the legal battle or the media strategy?

  13. Larry Yatkowsky

    January 30, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    hey Ines – here’s my blah, blah, blah.

    Blogging needs a little more science. Before you postulate – be absolutely certain of your facts and the source you are quoting. If you are the source, document and keep those documents as safe as possible. Failure to do so may result sometimes years later, in getting a Miami-slap upside the head.

    Really – is it much different from acting as a professional realtor?

    While I am deeply sorry for this poor blogger, I suggest that many merrily go about blogging in a righteous manner thinking that somehow they can say or do what ever the hell they want without consequence. Blogging is not a private tea party where you whisper unkind things about your neighbour and wash it away with Earl Grey. Blogging is very sticky. It is the Full Monty with pants crumpled around your socks. None of us should ever lose sight of the fact that if you say it in a blog the world knows – instantly. Faster if you have high page rank! Blogs bloated with opinion need tempering with reason and compassionate measure.

    On the other hand…………….. .>)

    without reason nor measure, it is without prejudice that I really think the developer is just a cranky old snot who is losing his ass in the market like so many other people in America and is taking his angst out on one of our Miami brothers. He might consider joining the gal in California and do a class action against all realtor bloggers just for sport.

    Bartender!

  14. Ines

    January 30, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Larry – You had me cracking up at the end!

    We should keep in mind that what we write is here to stay – there are many eyes on us and our articles will outlive us (scary thought). And for us that make mistakes, it’s better to recognize them, and make the appropriate corrections. I don’t know about you, but it is a never ending learning process.

  15. Lucas Lechuga

    January 30, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Thank you Ines for providing a link to my latest post. I think it brings up a lot of concerns that have been voiced to me by other bloggers within the last couple of days. This court case could have huge ramifications for the blogosphere. I also want to state that I have not been served yet. From what I’ve heard, EWM was served on Friday.

    In case the county is having a difficult time locating me:

    You can find me during recess, outside the gym, underneath the staircase, behind the stack of papers right after lunch. See you there. I’ll try to make sure I have a hall pass to be there.

    If anyone at agentgenius.com would like my take on the story then feel free to call me. 786-247-6332.

  16. Larry Yatkowsky

    January 31, 2008 at 12:23 am

    Ines,
    gosh i’m sorry!

    I unconditionally apologize to you personally, all ladies and some men who read that comment. I want to retract the part about the Full Monty. Having now looked in the mirror, I recognize that it is not pretty. Having committed that unfortunate lapse in judgement and upon much reflection, realize that it was not a reasonable action nor was it compassionate for it may have caused heart attacks, throbs, disgust or premature blindness.

    Bartender – Gimme another!

  17. Ines

    January 31, 2008 at 9:10 am

    Lucas – I know you have a lot of support from the blogging world (especially Real Estate Bloggers) and it would be great to get your side of the story. Thank you for the opportunity and I will certainly take you up on that.

    Larry – thanks for your great sense of humor.

  18. Kevin Tomlinson

    February 2, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Hey Ines,

    Did you mean what you said about >>..Enough is enough, I have Lechuga and Hollow up to my eyeballs already?

    I’m super-glad you are fed up with this story. I couldn’t take another one. It would almost be like beating a dead horse.

    All the national media, celebrity bloggers, bubble bloggers have covered the story beautifully.

    I know you wouldn’t compromise your journalistic integrity by boring us with another Lechuga post. I hope not!

    If I was Lucas, I would be completely insulted with the picture you chose. Yes, yes we know his last name means lettuce in spanish –BIG DEAL. It’s like you trash him (oh, I’m tired of hearing about it) AND THEN you post on it. We get it, Ines. Are you going to say you are OVER IT and then write two posts on it? That doesn’t sound like your “over it” at all.

    What you say and what you end up doing, don’t make sense.

  19. Benn Rosales

    February 2, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    Hi Kevin, nice to see you around. I think that whatever your problem with Ines might be, that it is better served in private. I can certainly appreciate your feelings on the issue, but we’d like to think that Mr. Lechuga will need all of the support of all of the re.net right now, including our readership that includes members of the NAR.

    I personally asked Ines to fill us in on the details from a local perspective and from what I’ve read the story has been absolutely diluted by the conversation of blog disclaimers, whether Lechuga was wrong, and attacks on him by some in the re.net for not vetting stories- all of which is hearsay as we both know.

    So in the interest of not getting off message in the Lechuga case and a rally around him, agentgenius.com supports Lechuga, including Ines, but also see how the intense coverage may be fanning further flames- which is the context in which this post was meant.

    I hope you will take this offline and email Ines directly.

    Hope to meet you at Inman…

    Sincerely,
    Benn Rosales
    agentgenius.com

  20. Kevin Tomlinson

    February 2, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Ben,
    I don’t have a problem with Ines. The beginning of her post basically says she is “tired” of hearing about it. Further, a picture is added with a person with lettuce stuffed in her mouth; not appropriate or cute, it is demeaning. And finally the comments turn to “let’s interview you for another post.”

    Am I wrong?

  21. Benn Rosales

    February 2, 2008 at 10:43 pm

    Because at the time in discussing with Ines directly whether we should take Lechuga up on his offer or not, we actually decided that he probably really shouldn’t say anything (this has been in debate for a few days now). We’ve since decided to wait for his legal council to set the tone for whatever conversation he makes.

    Lechuga had a sense of humor on the header, it got a lot of traction in comments, and more people understand the balance of the story- it simply is her style of writing.

    You’re not wrong, but you are missing the tone element here and I hope you’ll give Ines the benefit of the doubt.

    Lets unite.

  22. Mariana

    February 3, 2008 at 10:32 am

    I imagine that the Miami RE Bloggers MUST be up to their eyeballs in this story, but no one else seems to be. Thank you, Ines, for bringing your local perspective to the rest of the non-Miami world.

  23. Plaxen

    August 27, 2008 at 1:15 pm

    I think it is appropriate to add a disclaimer not because writer is unsure about what he or she has written but there is a fear of misinterpretation. It is good to take precautions.

  24. Ines

    August 27, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Plaxen, it is our responsibility to check facts or quote sources but you are right, misinterpretation is another problem we need to deal with as bloggers….and not to say the responsibility we have with comments as well.

  25. Jonathan Benya

    April 20, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    What’s sad is that there is no brokerage that is willing to stand behind a guy that specifically said “in my opinion”; not the broker’s, not the company’s, HIS OPINION. Any legal defense fund set up for this guy yet? I’ll contribute!

  26. ines

    April 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Jonathan,
    the suit has been dropped, and Lechuga had to write an apology letter and post it statically on his blog for a period of time. The result for him was more exposure and increase in business….and I’m sure tons of stress at the time.

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