A district judge ruled against Daniel Royce’s motion to dismiss the defamation lawsuit against him filed by Stockman’s Restaurant.
Royce and his wife, Carrie Royce, were sued by the restaurant owners in March after Carrie Royce accused the restaurant in a Facebook post of ignoring her daughter’s reported sexual assault by an employee and punishing her by reducing her hours. The restaurant owners said they were told there was an incident, but that they were not told it was a sexual assault. Carrie Royce has said she stands by her statements.
Daniel Royce, acting as his own attorney, asked District Judge Dane Watkins Jr. to dismiss the suit against him, arguing the Facebook post used his wife’s words.
Daniel Royce said in a May 29 hearing Stockman’s owners had not presented plausible evidence he was involved with the post.
“As the complaint is devoid of any actual evidence that she was writing on my behalf and short of a statement on my behalf to the truth or not of that ... there’s no way to really refute it or to answer it,” Daniel Royce said.
In the Feb. 21 post, Carrie Royce named Daniel in her post, saying they had both held their tongues until their daughter was ready to go public. A few times in her post, Carrie Royce uses “we” in an apparent reference to herself and her husband. At other points in the post, Carrie Royce uses the pronoun “I.”
Daniel Royce said he was not involved with writing the post, and that use of the pronoun “we” wasn’t enough basis for the complaint.
“Other than that, there’s nothing to indicate she was doing anything other than speaking her own mind,” Daniel Royce said.
Attorney Amanda Ulrich, representing Stockman’s owners Chris Bird and Trevor Noles, said she was not required to present evidence against Daniel Royce until trial, citing Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 8.
“Under Rule 8, it’s just a simple and plain statement of what the claims for relief are, and I think we have actually more than met that,” Ulrich said.
The lawsuit against the Royces charges them with defamation and tortious interference, intentionally interfering with one’s business.
The restaurant owners have also sued four other individuals who either shared Carrie Royce’s Facebook post or made comments on the review section of Stockman’s Facebook page in support of Carrie Royce.
Attorney Jedediah Bigelow, representing defendant Makendra Hess, supported Daniel Royce’s motion. He said anyone can claim they are speaking on another person’s behalf, and allowing the suit sets a standard for others to be sued without evidence.
The three remaining defendants, Jill Cameron, Monica Rankin and Emily Randall, did not submit a response to the motion.
Watkins sided with the plaintiffs in a memorandum, agreeing they were not required to present evidence until the trial.
A date has not been set for a trial in the case or other future hearings.