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Newspaper Ordered to Pay Restaurant Owners Over $580,000 in Defamation Battle

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Three Australian restaurant owners have been awarded around $623,526 AUD ($583,539 USD) for damages caused by a critical restaurant review published in the Sydney Morning Herald 2003. According to the Guardian, The 11 year long defamation case started when former SMH critic Matthew Evans filed a scathing review (warning: PDF) of the now-shuttered Sydney restaurant Coco Roco. Evans gave the restaurant a rating of 9 out of 20 which is equated with a recommendation to "stay home." The restaurant closed just six months later.

The Supreme Court of New South Wales has ordered Fairfax Media, the parent company of SMH, to pay Coco Roco owners Aleksandra Gacic, Ljiljana Gacic and Branislav Ciric a total of $194,513 USD ($149,793 in damages plus 11 years worth of interest) each. According to the Daily Telegraph, the restaurant owners had asked for an apology so that they could "rebuild their business" but were refused. The judge on the case adds that "the hurt to feelings and injury to reputation continued" because the harsh review remained online for the majority of the court case. As for Evans, he has since switched career paths and moved to Tasmania to "breed pigs and grow brussels sprouts" and to host a television show called Gourmet Farmer.

In 2009, a judge had ruled that Coco Roco was not entitled to damages because Evans' review was "an honest opinion." However, later it was proved that the review "failed to clarify that Coco Roco was actually two restaurants" and that Evans was only reviewing Coco. Both Coco and Roco "suffered" however and were shuttered after the review.

· $600,000 Restaurant Review: Fairfax Loses 11-year Defamation Battle [Guardian]
· Former reviewer Matthew Evans Cost Fairfax $600,000 [Daily Telegraph]
· All Lawsuits Coverage on Eater [-E-]