Lawsuit spurs from realtor calling “Overly Critical” home inspector “Total Idiot”

A Lincoln area housing inspector has filed a civil lawsuit against a Seward real estate agent and the company she works for because she called him a "total idiot" in an email sent to more than 400 people.

In January 2011, Seward real estate agent Shelly Nitz received a work-related email asking for feedback from agents on Matthew Steinhausen's past performance.

She responded with an email, sent to all Woods Bros. Realty and Home Real Estate agents: "He did an inspection in Seward for the agent that sold one of my listings. I will never let him near one of my listings ever again. Total idiot," according to the libel and defamation civil complaint, which was filed last week in Lancaster County District Court.

The suit also names Woods Bros. and its parent company, HomeServices of Nebraska Inc.

Steinhausen said his referrals from Woods and Home virtually ended in the wake of the email, resulting in more than $50,000 in damages. The civil complaint does not ask for a specific award amount.

"When I lose work because of a falsehood emailed en masse accusing me of being an idiot, it's infuriating," Steinhausen said in a phone interview.

In both court documents and the interview, Steinhausen said he asked Nitz for a public apology and retraction, which would have been enough to prevent him from filing the lawsuit.

Nitz, in an email to Steinhausen, admitted she "mis-spoke," but she has yet to publicly apologize or retract her statement, Steinhausen said.

Steinhausen believes the critical email was "a retaliatory act" sent because Nitz felt his August 2008 inspection for a potential buyer of a single-family home in Seward was overly critical, he said.

Steinhausen, who has a bachelor's degree in construction management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, opened Steinhausen Home Inspections in 1999.

Last year, Steinhausen filed a complaint against Nitz with the Real Estate Commission of Nebraska, which issues real estate sales licenses.

The commission last month found Nitz's actions "demonstrating negligence, incompetency or unworthiness to act as a salesperson, for sending an inappropriate mass email."

Nitz admitted the allegations and was ordered by the commission to complete a six-hour course in ethics, according to commission documents.

Neither Nitz nor officials with Wood Bros. Realty's corporate office in Lincoln returned messages seeking comment.



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