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Hell in a handcart Media

Has a review hurt your feelings? Then why not sue?

This is rather worrying: according to Slugger O’Toole, a Belfast restaurant successfully sued the Irish News for libel after the paper printed a negative review. If Slugger’s commenters are correct, the jury didn’t find the paper guilty because the review was factually incorrect; it found it guilty because the review hurt the restaurateur’s feelings.

[Via Tim Worstall]

5 replies on “Has a review hurt your feelings? Then why not sue?”

The paper are appealing, thank God. I really hope this’ll be overturned. I find myself slightly conflicted: on the one hand, I’m all for jury nullification and will fiercely defend the right of juries to return decisions that they feel are right even if they’re legally incorrect; on the other hand, there’s this sort of crap.

This is interesting:

“The outcome of this case raises profound questions involving the freedom of the press,” a spokesman for the Belfast-published Irish News said.

“We firmly believe that newspapers must have the right to publish fair and honestly written reviews, contributed by experts in their particular field and engaging in either praise or criticism when it is justified.”

See, I think “freedom of the press” is a much misunderstood expression these days (especially by members of the press). There is no special right to criticise reserved for the media: the principle is surely that everyone has the right to express opinion, not just newspapers. And that raises the question of what Goodfellas will do to you if you, an individual diner, complain about the service.

Obviously it’s hard to comment properly without knowing what the original review said, but if it was “The starter was stodgy, the main course minging and the dessert a disaster” then I don’t see how that’s grounds for libel. On the other hand, if the review said “ten people died of food poisoning before my drinks arrived and there were ginger pubes in my pasta” when the restaurant was empty and the place doesn’t serve pasta, that’s a whole different thing.

I wonder: given that the restaurant in question seems to be a cheap local eaterie, was the libel claim based on the paper holding it to the same standards as a Gordon Ramsay job? I can see how that would work as a libel case.

>>..ginger pubes in my pasta” when the restaurant was empty and the place doesn’t serve pasta, that’s a whole different thing.

The chef could’ve been dark-haired.

>>And that raises the question of what Goodfellas will do to you if you, an individual diner, complain about the service.

You really need to ask? ;-)

According to the guardian, the review said the cola was flat and the chicken so sweet it was pretty much inedible. Hardly the worst restaurant review ever written…

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