A South Carolina plastic surgeon has filed a defamation suit against Zillow and its parent company, Zillow Group, alleging the company’s flagship site listed his million-dollar property as a foreclosure.
The custom-built, 4,446 square-foot property — 74 Woodford St. in Daniel Island, South Carolina — is being rented out and is currently on the market for $1,049,500. According to the property’s listing page on realtor.com, which is cited in the complaint, the property has been on the market on and off since 2014 with various price changes since then.
According to the complaint, on or after Jan. 8, 2018, Zillow’s residence page for the property said it was in foreclosure — information the plaintiff’s attorney wrote was “misleading, false, and inaccurate.”
The complaint alleged the plaintiff, Dr. Dennis K. Schimpf, became aware of the false information on Jan. 23, 2018 and reached out to an attorney to help him have the false information removed from the Zillow website. It is not clear whether the property was for sale at the time.
The company subsequently removed the information, approximately 16 days after Zillow first published it, the complaint alleged. But by then, “Plaintiff and the Property had already suffered significant injuries and damages, and would continue to suffer significant injuries and damages thereafter,” the complaint said.
“The False Information was viewed by numerous individuals, including Plaintiff’s patients and potential patients, Plaintiff’s friends and acquaintances, other business professionals and persons located in the community where Plaintiff resides and operates his business, and other unknown individuals,” the complaint said.
“Defendants were negligent in allowing the False Information to be posted on the Zillow Website for numerous third parties to view,” the complaint added. “The False Information has a large impact because of Defendants’ power and prominence in the real estate market.”
The complaint accuses Zillow of defamation, slander, libel and negligence.
“We believe the claims in the suit are without merit and intend to vigorously defend ourselves,” Zillow spokesperson Viet Shelton said in an emailed statement. “Zillow strives for accuracy in our data. That’s why we make it easy for users to claim their homes or contact us to update their home facts. In this situation we promptly removed the data in question when the consumer notified us, a fact the plaintiff himself admits.”
In a legal filing, Zillow denied the plaintiff’s allegations and said he had failed to mitigate his damages, if any, and that the company was “not the direct or proximate cause of any injury alleged by the Plaintiff,” among other defenses.
The complaint seeks a jury trial for actual damages, punitive damages, special damages and consequential damages, plus attorney fees and costs.
The suit was initially filed in a court in Berkeley County, South Carolina (where the plaintiff lives) last month, but Zillow had the case moved to federal court this week.
Read the complaint:
Read Zillow’s answer to the complaint: