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On August tenth of 2012, we wrote about the movement to Boycott Clay Nissan (you can read that article here.) As a quick refresher, a woman–named Jill Colter–was fired from her position as a service writer at Clay Nissan of Norwood. Jill has stage 4 brain cancer, and her brothers Jon and Adam claimed that her illness is the reason she was terminated. They started a boycott of the Clay Nissan Family of dealerships and Clay responded with a defamation lawsuit. Our article talked mostly about how the Colter brothers used social media to get their sister’s cause to go viral and rally support, and the Clay group handled their reputation management on Facebook pretty poorly.
The two sides have since met in court to discuss the issue. In a document that was issued from the Dedham court yesterday, it seems that the law is coming down on the side of Clay Nissan.
In the ten-page document, the Justice of the Superior Court granted an order of attachment to the plaintiff, The Clay Corporation, against the Colter brothers. The Justice wrote, “…there appears to be a reasonable likelihood that the plaintiffs will recover a substantial judgment” as the reason for the order. This essentially means that the Colters must present The Clay Corporation with financial information in anticipation of impending payment.
So Clay is winning the battle in court, but the very fact that they’re winning means that they lost in the court of public opinion. The Justice found that the boycott initiated by the Colters, if continued, “…may very well have its desired effect: the crippling or destruction of the plaintiffs business”.
That’s right, the Facebook based boycott was so effective, that it had the potential to completely destroy Clay Nissan of Norwood. Not only that, in the couple of months that the boycott has been live, Clay has lost over $100,000.
Think about that; one…hundred…thousand…all because of a Facebook page.
Will a court ruling in Clay’s favor be enough to change the negative connotation now associated with the dealership group? Unfortunately, the damage has likely already been done, though it’s not for lack of support from the court. In fact, the Justice wrote, “…the Colter’s have been exposed to many additional facts which would cause a reasonable person to conclude that Jill’s termination was not based in any way upon her illness. The Colters have chosen to ignore those facts and have stepped up their relentless campaign against Clay.”
Even that condemnation of the Colters won’t be enough to change what happened. Use Clay as a lesson for your own business. It appears they were in the right, they defended themselves courteously, they took (most likely) successful legal action….and they still lost and lost big.
The point is you can’t fight the kind of negative publicity that goes viral. If Clay had just apologized and worked to have the Facebook page taken down right at the beginning, they probably wouldn’t be dealing with the potential annihilation of one of their dealerships.