HELENA – A phone book company has settled a lawsuit over its placement of a Montana restaurant in the “Animal Carcass Removal” section of its yellow pages, a listing the restaurant owner says cost him customers and made him the butt of a Jay Leno joke.
The terms of the Nov. 16 deal between Dex Media Inc. and Big Sky Beverage Inc., the parent company of Bar 3 Bar-B-Q, were not disclosed. A tentative agreement proposed in September said a deal would include a payment to the restaurant owner.
Restaurant owner Hunter Lacey sued Dex after the listing appeared in the 2009 phone book and was reprinted in other print and online directories in 2010 and last year. It gained national notoriety after Leno featured it as a joke on the “Tonight Show” in January 2011.
Lacey’s lawsuit claims a Dex salesman deliberately published the free listing under the “Animal Carcass Removal” section after he refused to buy an advertisement in the phone book. The salesman no longer works for the company.
Lacey claimed the negative publicity caused business to drop off at his Bozeman and Belgrade restaurants and his brand’s reputation to suffer. His lawsuit alleged negligence, defamation and slander, among other charges.
Dex has said it was an erroneous listing the company removed from its online directory when it was discovered.
The case seemed to be headed for court after it was filed in U.S. District Court in September 2011. But settlement talks began in earnest after U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong denied a request to dismiss the case because of problems he saw with Dex’s disclosure of company documents to Big Sky Beverage’s attorney.
Strong took issue with the timing of Dex’s release of audio recordings of the salesman’s calls to Bar 3 Bar-B-Q and a company document without giving the other side adequate time to inspect them in preparation for questioning the salesman.
Attorneys for both sides told the judge less than two months later they had reached a tentative settlement, which was finalized this month.
Neither Lacey nor attorneys for Dex and Big Sky Beverage returned calls and emails seeking comment this week.