South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Negative Review of Restaurant Food Not Basis for Defamation Suit
Description Nevada high court held that because a restaurant is a public figure for purposes of food service, actual malice would have to be shown on the part of a newspaper that published a negative review of the restaurant's food. Otherwise, the review is a matter of protected opinion.
Topic Torts
Key Words Defamation; Restaurant Review; Public Figure; Malice
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The owners of a restaurant in Nevada sued a newspaper, the Reno Gazette-Journal (RGJ), for defamation for publishing a negative review of the restaurant. A freelance journalist wrote the review. The district court granted summary judgment to RGJ, concluding that the review was a statement of opinion about a public figure for the limited purpose of a food review and that actual malice had not been shown. The restaurant owners appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. Material published in such a review is not automatically a protected opinion, but this review was. It commented on the restaurant's food, which is the purpose of such reviews. The restaurant is a public figure for a limited purpose-exposure in the community as to its food service. As a limited-purpose public figure, the restaurant would have to show actual malice on the part of the publisher in printing the negative review. Since that could not be shown, there was no cause of action.

Citation Pegasus v. Reno Newspapers, Inc., --- P.3d --- (2002 WL 31487455, Sup. Ct., Nev., 2002)

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