Whole Foods Market on Tuesday sued a Texas pastor for defamation, saying that his allegation — made in a lawsuit on Monday — that the company inscribed a gay slur on a custom cake was false and that he had acted with malice to damage the company's reputation.
Jordan Brown alleged he ordered a blank, pre-baked cake from a Whole Foods in Austin last week to be personalized with the words “Love Wins,” but after he picked it up, it instead said “Love Wins Fag.” He sued the company for intentionally inflicting emotional distress.
In its counterclaim, Whole Foods said "their employees did not put this slur on the cake," further alleging that Brown "intentionally, knowingly, and falsely accused Whole Foods and its employees of writing the homosexual slur 'FAG' on a custom made cake that he ordered."
The company seeks damages of not less than $100,000, and also seeks sanctions against Brown's attorney, Austin Kaplan.
The company claims the lawsuit Kaplan filed on behalf of his client was signed without investigation into the truthfulness of the claims, and that it was "groundless, brought in bad faith, and intended for the sole purpose of harassment."
To bolster its case, Whole Foods released surveillance footage that it says shows Brown at the store, paying for a cake with a UPC label affixed to the top of the cake box. That surveillance footage contrasts with a video that Brown made, which showed the UPC sticker on the side of the box. In his video, Brown repeatedly said the box was still sealed.
"Mr. Brown admits that he was in sole possession and control of the cake until he posted his video, which showed the UPC label on the bottom and side of the box," the statement added. "After reviewing our security footage of Mr. Brown, it’s clear that the UPC label was in fact on top of the cake box, not on the side of the package. This is evident as the cashier scans the UPC code on top of the box."
Here's the surveillance footage that appears to show Brown in the lower right corner and a cashier scanning a label on the top of the cake box:
Brown, a pastor at a nondenominational Christian church, sued the grocer in Travis County District Court for intentionally inflicting emotional distress, arguing the company is responsible for its employees and failed to adequately respond when he complained about the cake last week.
His lawyer, Austin Kaplan, posted the video that features Brown displaying the cake inside the box with the UPC label on the side and bottom.
Here's a screenshot from Brown's video, showing the UPC label on the side of the box:
Immediately after the lawsuit was filed on Monday, Whole Foods rejected Brown's claims. The company countered the cake simply said “Love Wins” at the time of sale, and that it was made by a member of the LGBT community.
By Tuesday, after the company's counter-suit, Kaplan had apparently removed a page from his firm's website about the lawsuit he filed — which listed documents relating to the suit — and it instead said "page not found."
Brown and Kaplan did not respond to BuzzFeed News' request to comment on Tuesday about Whole Foods' allegations in the lawsuit, or the Brown's claims were malicious and that Kaplan filed the lawsuit for the purpose of harassment.
Read Whole Foods' counterclaim:
Dominic Holden is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Dominic Holden at email@example.com.
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