Judge rejects motion to dismiss restaurant’s defamation lawsuit

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IDAHO FALLS — A judge has refused to throw out the Stockman’s defamation lawsuit against Facebook commenters.

Stockman’s Restaurant, along with owners Chris Bird and Trevor Noles, filed a defamation lawsuit against Daniel and Carrie Royce and four others in March. The suit claims they led an online campaign to get customers to boycott the business.

Daniel Royce filed a motion to dismiss the suit. He said the restaurant doesn’t have a basis for a claim against them.

The defamation lawsuit is a result of claims Carrie Royce made on Facebook saying a Stockman’s manager had repeatedly sexually assaulted her daughter, who was a Stockman’s employee at the time.

RELATED | Idaho Falls restaurant suing Facebook commenters for defamation

Carrie’s Facebook post referenced an alleged incident in which her daughter was allegedly “thrown through a door at the restaurant for defending herself.”

After that incident, Carrie said, her daughter contacted the Idaho Falls Police Department and told the owners of Stockman’s Restaurant about the alleged sexual assault.

Following the report to the owners, Royce said her daughter was progressively removed from the work schedule and, to their knowledge, the manager was not punished. Eventually, the daughter opted to quit her job at Stockman’s, according to the Facebook post.

The owners say there was a romantic relationship between the Royces’ daughter and the accused employee, but the employee has never been a manager at the restaurant.

In the lawsuit, Stockman’s claimed Carrie was speaking for herself and on her husband’s behalf in her Facebook posts. Daniel argued that they did not provide any evidence that Carrie was speaking for anyone other than herself, and thus the entire lawsuit should be thrown out.

The others named in the suit are Makendra Hess, Jill Cameron, Monica Rankin and Emily Randall. They were named in the suit due to sharing Carrie’s post multiple times, creating reviews detailing Carrie’s claims and responding to reviews of the restaurant.

Hess’ attorney supported the motion to dismiss. The other three did not submit a response to the motion.

District Judge Dane Watkins ultimately decided that Stockman’s did not need to provide evidence until trial and rejected the motion to dismiss.

A trial date has not yet been set.

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