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South Carolina restaurant sues woman over “libelous” online review

Illustration for article titled South Carolina restaurant sues woman over “libelous” online reviewem/em
Photo: Maksim Kamyshanskii (iStock)

Update, December 20: The diner’s Facebook review has since been deleted, which means we cannot verify the accusations made in her post.

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Original story, December 19: It started, as so many arguments have throughout the ages, with a coupon.

A woman and her friend reportedly visited a North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina restaurant called Buoys on the Boulevard in late October, and indicated they’d like to pay for their meal with a 2-dinners-for-$30 coupon. According to Myrtle Beach Online, employees told the women they couldn’t use the coupon because the restaurant had changed ownership a few months ago (and changed its name from Buoys Beach Bar & Grille) and wasn’t honoring older coupons. They offered to comp the table’s drinks instead.

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One woman then threatened to “destroy” the restaurant on social media, subsequently posting a Facebook review that—according to Myrtle Beach Online—alleges she found a worm in her sushi, a fast-crawling bug on the wall, and that the “Junga [sic] game is a germ carrier.” The restaurant responded to her review, denying the allegations, explaining the coupon dispute, and noting that her table didn’t even order sushi. Buoys wrote, in part: “I find it really sad that you would stoop so low to post lies about a business because of your anger.”

Now, the business has filed a lawsuit against the woman alleging she libeled the restaurant in her knowingly false review; the restaurant seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

I’m no legal scholar, but I did take journalistic law and ethics classes in colleges (Don’t Get Sued For Libel 101), and libel is quite difficult to prove in the United States. There are multiple hurdles to clear: A person must prove that the information was factually false, that it quantifiably damaged their reputation, and that the person in question was responsible for the statements. For a public figure—a celebrity or politician, say—that bar is even higher, and the public figure must prove that the author of a statement acted “with actual malice,” meaning that the author knew the information was false and published it with “reckless disregard for truth.”

As to whether a ranty, negative Facebook review would qualify, well, that’s not for me to decide.

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Kate Bernot is a freelance writer and a certified beer judge. She was previously managing editor at The Takeout.

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DISCUSSION

evanrudejohnson
EvanrudeJohnson

At my regular bar, a woman posted a review about three weeks ago because she was upset there she wasn’t being served quick enough on a very busy Saturday night. Her review said the bartender was racist, downing shots, and was doing blow off the bar. Her claim was the bartender didn’t serve her because she taped the bartender doing coke on the bar.

The manager of the bar knew that it was pretty much impossible for their workers to snort a line off the bar on such a busy night, found out this reviewer’s number and called her up. Manager informed her that the bar has video of the whole incident, saw the reviewer filming the staff, and never saw anyone doing any drugs. She was then told that the bar would turn over a copy of her review, along with her phone number and the footage of the night to their attorneys and would serve her with a lawsuit if she didn’t take down her review.

About an hour later, the woman changed her review to say something like: “We had a little trouble getting a drink, but spoke with the manager who was very nice and took care of everything”.