A couple in Vancouver, Washington, was served with a lawsuit after refusing to take down their negative one-star Google reviews for allegedly being treated in a rude manner by a roofing company.
When Autumn Knepper and Adam Marsh noticed their roof was leaking, their landlord referred them to Executive Roof Services (ERS) to check out the damage.
A representative from the roofing company came over to their residence for an inspection and confirmed there were a few spots that needed fixing.
But when the couple followed up asking for a timeline to have the repairs done, Knepper said the receptionist she spoke to on the phone was "extremely rude" from the moment she answered the phone.
Knepper recalled of the receptionist:
"She refused to give me any information. She said I would have to get it from the landlord. I asked to speak with the manager and she laughed at me. She told me I was verbally abusing her and that she was the office manager. She hung up on me."
You can watch the KGW news report here:
Washington couple sued for $112,000 after leaving one-star reviews youtu.be
Marsh said he also contacted ERS and experienced the same negative customer service experience.
"She was just super rude, told me that she was office manager and there was no one else I could talk to, and hung up on me," said Marsh.
Without knowing the timeline for the repairs needed, the couple decided to write their respective one-star Google reviews for ERS detailing their interaction with the rude receptionist.
Marsh also filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and wrote:
"The business came to do an inspection of the roof of our residence and refuses to give any details about the findings of scheduling of repairs to us the tenants."
That was when the company's owner, Michael Mecham, reached out and demanded the couple take down their reviews before "more damages are done."
The slogan on the website for ERS, which states, "Preferred roofing contractors where you're treated like family," got roasted.
Knepper recalled her conversation with Mecham.
"He told me that he knew where I lived. He said he had forensics guy and that he would gladly spend a hundred thousand dollars suing me."
Knepper filed a police report after ERS threatened them, and the police allegedly contacted the company and told them to stop harassing the couple.
She thought that would be the end of it, but it wasn't.
The couple received letters from Jordan Ramis law firm on behalf of ERS to demand the reviews be taken down.
In June, when the reviews still remained, the couple was served with a $112,000 lawsuit and $28,000 per week by ERS for defamation and "intentional interference with business expectancy."
"Honestly, I cried immediately," Knepper told KGW8. "I was terrified. I can't afford a lawyer. I can't afford to pay $112,000. And I can't, I don't want to file for bankruptcy."
David Bowser, the attorney for ERS, asserted the lawsuit had less to do with the couple leaving negative reviews and more to do with Knepper and Marsh's intent – which he described as "improper.".
"The first thing I think your viewers need to understand is that my client is not suing one of its customers for leaving a bad review. That's not what's going on here."
Bowser clarified ERS was not entitled to give the couple the requested information because they did not hire ERS – the landlord did.
"They intentionally harmed ERS by posting one-star reviews for the purpose of getting a report they weren't entitled to," said Bowser.
Paul Levy, an attorney with Public Citizen Litigation Group in Washington D.C., said the couple should be protected if what they wrote about ERS in their reviews were truthful.
"I think the business has a lot to lose by litigating it, by trying to frame this as a defamation case. The problem is that the business has the money and the couple doesn't."
Although Levy believes the couple could win in court, Knepper and Marsh would still need to pay to hire an attorney.
But when Knepper tried to raise funds on GoFundMe to hire a lawyer, ERS sent them cease and desist letters.
"I just don't want my future completely destroyed by something so small."
"This is obviously a man who is well off and can afford to do this, and I can't afford to fight it. And I think he knows that."
The news outlet said the roof was ultimately repaired by a different company.