Claiming that it has been defamed by the circulation of a photo purporting to show a dead baby rat on a plate of partially-eaten fried rice, Timmy Chan's Chicken N Rice is suing Facebook, Inc., HoustonHipHopNews.com's Dennis L. Richardson, and GoDaddy.com in Houston District Court.
According to an affidavit in the suit filed yesterday, an employee of the local chain's flagship location on MLK at Loop 610 first saw the photo (click here if you wish to see it) on Saturday, April 13.
On April 16, Katharine Shilcutt of Eating Our Words discovered that the same photo had been circulating for weeks and had been previously used in connection with Chinese restaurants in Lafayette, Louisiana and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Gastronaut also found the photo on two Nigerian message boards weeks before it became attached to Timmy Chan's, one of which stated that the wayward protein incident occurred at a restaurant in Lagos. The photo has also surfaced in Ghana and Jamaica, and a Liverpool man claimed to have purchased the plate at his local chippy weeks after the photo had already appeared elsewhere.
Unlike HoustonHipHopNews.com, neither the Nigerians, the Ghanaians, the Jamaicans, nor the Liverpudlian stated the name of the offending restaurant. That's why they did not get sued, kids.
What all of this means is that the rodent-tainted platter was almost certainly not purchased at Timmy Chan's, despite the fact that HoustonHipHopNews.com claimed as such on its Facebook page. And still does, despite a cease-and-desist letter from Timmy Chan's Inc. (Similar letters were sent to Facebook and GoDaddy, the host of HoustonHipHopNews.com, and were also ignored, according to the suit.)
Shilcutt's debunking has done little to repair the damage, according to the suit. The rat-rice Facebook post has been liked over 400 times, shared over 4,000 times, and has garnered over 500 comments. While some commenters are trying to debunk the rumor, many others were still coming in from people saying they will never eat at Timmy Chan's, even after the pic was shown to be a hoax.
The plaintiffs claim that business fell by 80 percent on April 15 and remains at such abysmally low levels that Original Timmy Chan's owner Mark Dang is considering laying off employees. The suit also claims that the photo could force him to shut his doors forever.