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Lawsuit against ‘Co-Op Frose & Eatery’ owner claims defamation in social media posts

Lawsuit against ‘Co-Op Frose & Eatery’ owner claims defamation in social media posts

Lawsuit against ‘Co-Op Frose & Eatery’ owner claims defamation in social media posts

CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — Two people are suing the owner of several popular ice spots. They claim the owner defamed them in false social media posts, causing them severe emotional distress.

According to the lawsuit, Jess Patterson, the defendant, opened The Co-Op Frose and Eatery (The Co-Op) at 81 Cannon Street in the Cannonborough/Elliotborough neighborhood. Marion and Lori Hawkins, plaintiffs, are property owners in the same neighborhood, with Marion acting as part-time neighborhood chair of the Cannonborough/Elliotborough Neighborhood Association (CENA).

Megan Lawson, the owner of 81 Cannon St., is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

The complaint begins with the Co-Op seeking permission from the City of Charleston to change the residential parking area in front of the Cannon St. location. in a commercial loading area as required for deliveries. The city hall allegedly told them to talk to CENA about the request.

When the matter was brought up to CENA, Marion says CENA talked to neighborhood restaurant owners, property owners and city officials before recommending the loading zone be further down at 73-75 Cannon, according to the lawsuit. The Hawkins say the loading zone request was “an attempt to reduce the sidewalk area needed to make room for outdoor dining and drinking.”

Later in April, the Hawkins claimed the Co-Op had placed chairs and tables outside on the sidewalk, which they weren’t allowed to do, so CENA board members notified the city to remove the outside items.

Shortly after, on April 30, the Hawkins claim Marion was the subject of a post on the Instagram account “coopsullivansuncensored” run by Patterson, which had “a photo of a T-shirt that said ‘don’t be like Marion Hawkins’” under the caption “Our Neighbor Cannon”; “New post later tonight.”

The Instagram account “coopsullivansuncensored” has almost 54 thousand followers and a Facebook page called “The Co-Op Uncensored” where the same posts are also found has 18 thousand followers.

This post is not visible on any social media accounts since June 24.

On May 2, the Hawkins claim another post was made on the same social media account making defamatory statements about Marion, which received thousands of likes and comments.

Marion, through counsel, sent Patterson a cease and desist letter requesting that the May 2 post be removed on May 3, the lawsuit states.

On the same day, another post was made on “coopsullivansuncensored” making other defamatory statements and referring to sending a cease and desist letter. The lawsuit says Lawson commented on the May 3 post accusing Marion of criminal activity.

There is a post on May 2nd and 3rd on both the Instagram and Facebook social accounts named; however, comments have been disabled for both since June 24.

The Hawkins seek judgment in their favor in an amount determined by a jury as a result of the injury and suffering caused to them by the foregoing. The Hawkins say Lori was harassed and Marion suffered damages as a result of the statements that “were false and recklessly disregarded the truth,” the lawsuit states.

In response to the lawsuit’s claims, Patterson says Marion has targeted his business since before it opened and that the allegations are baseless. His statement on the situation is below.

This suit is an attempt by Marion Hawkins to silence me because I had the audacity to legally challenge her views and actions regarding our outdoor seating at the Co-Op on Cannon Street. We will soon file our legal response, including counterclaims, which will strongly refute these claims, many of which are factually inaccurate, and provide the full history and context of these events.

Beginning just before opening the Cannon Street location and continuing since then, Marion Hawkins has repeatedly acted in a concentrated and targeted manner against the Co-Op’s legitimate business interests and activities.

Marion Hawkins was not even directly named by me in the two satirical social media posts she is suing for. Not once have I made a false statement regarding these events. I gave my opinion of Marion’s conduct directed at me and my business for reasons only he can explain.

I will not let bullying behavior, from any source, negatively impact my business and my employees. I look forward to my day in court for all of us.

– Jess Patterson