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DeKalb petting zoo says review was libelous

Published: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 10:06 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 10:17 p.m. CDT

St. CHARLES – The owner of a DeKalb petting zoo business is suing a St. Charles woman for damages in excess of $50,000, alleging that her online review of the business was defamatory, according to a lawsuit filed in Kane County.

The lawsuit was filed by Steve Vidmar and his company, Friendly Farms, 15534 Somonauk Road, southwest of DeKalb. The suit claims that a review written by Erika Gannon Hughes in July 2013 was libelous and damaged his business' reputation.

According to the lawsuit, Erika Gannon Hughes published a statement July 14, 2013, about Friendly Farms on Yelp.com that harmed the business' reputation and ability to attract and retain customers.

"[Hughes] knew the publication was false or she lacked reasonable grounds to believe the statement was true," the complaint states.

Friendly Farms has furnished farm animals for petting zoos and pony rides for parties hosted by organizations and private citizens since 1978, according to company's website.

In her review, which was posted on the website Yelp.com, the complaint states Hughes made several false claims against Friendly Farms. According to Vidmar's suit, she wrote that Friendly Farms' animals were severely abused, underfed, had lice and parasites, and were overdue for a hoof trimming. The review since has been removed from the website.

The complaint states she also makes claims against the ownership, who she described as "cruel, heartless and shady." She also reportedly asked that people don't support the business.

"They are in it for the [money] and nothing else," Hughes is accused of writing.

A case management conference is set for 9 a.m. Sept. 11.

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