A popular Brooklyn coffee shop’s lawsuit against the New York Times just got chucked. The paper’s City Room blog had reprinted the letter penned by eight employees who simultaneously quit over working conditions, and the owners of Gorilla Coffee felt that the Times’ action was defamatory and an “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” A judge disagreed.
In a staff email that was reposted on the NYT City Room blog, the ex-workers alleged that the two Gorilla Coffee owners “created a perpetually malicious, hostile, and demeaning work environment.”
After the workers walked off the job, with no intention of ever coming back, the high-traffic neighborhood hub remained shuttered for several days. Confused patrons walked up to the pulled-down window gates and read the staff email, which someone had printed out a few copies of and taped up to the windows. The coffee shop reopened a few days later with new staff.
The suit, Gorilla Coffee v. The New York Times Company, asserted that the reprinted workers’ opinion carried the implication that the statement was based on unspoken defamatory facts, and a reader could thus interpret the statements themselves as fact.
In tossing the case out, New York State Supreme Court Justice Wayne Saitta said the letter was “too subjective and vague to be considered anything more than an opinion.”
A lawyer for Gorilla Coffee declined to comment to Reuters besides saying he was “disappointed.” The coffee shop hasn’t ruled out appealing.