Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gorilla Coffee Takes on 800 lb. Gorilla New York Times

Coffee CupImage via Wikipedia
There's trouble brewing in The New York Supreme Court in Kings County, where Darleen Scherer and Carol McLaughlin, co-owners of Gorilla Coffee in Park Slope, Brooklyn, have filed a defamation suit against The New York Times, blogger Oliver Strand and several former employees over a blog item on April 11, 2010.

According to the 7-page complaint, during a labor dispute in which several baristas walked out of Gorilla Coffee, risking their urnings ("TUOL" apologizes for its pun addiction), Strand, a contributor to the Times' Dining section, blogged that store employees were subjected to a hostile and demeaning work environment. Subsequently, the staffers quit and the coffee oasis closed for two weeks as the owners hired new baristas. The Times wrote blog entries and a Metro feature on the store's re-opening.

The plaintiffs allege the Times' post and printing of an Email from the disgruntled employees alleging an unhealthy work environment defamed them. The plaintiffs claim they are not public figures, which, if the court agrees, would require them only to prove that the defendants were negligent in publishing the alleged libelous statement, rather than the higher burden of proving that the defendants published the alleged defamatory statements with actual malice (knowledge that the statements were false or reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the statements).

It remains to be seen whether the defamation claims are as strong as the coffee and whether the defendants have grounds for dismissing the suit (pun addictions are difficult to overcome).

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