LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A woman has filed a lawsuit again the creator of a GoFundMe campaign that raised tens of thousands of dollars for a Starbucks barista in San Diego who went viral after asking her to mask up.
The controversy sparked last June when a barista named Lenin asked customer and plaintiff Amber Giles to wear a mask in the store, according to KGTV in San Diego. She refused and left.
Giles then posted a photo of the barista to Facebook which read, “Meet Lenen (sic) from Starbucks who refused to serve me cause I’m not wearing a mask. Next time I will wait for cops and bring a medical exemption.”
The post was shared publicly hundreds of thousands of times, garnering many comments in support of Lenin, KGTV reports. It also prompted Matt Cowan of Irvine to create a GoFundMe for Lenin.
“I wanted to make a $10 tip donation,” Cowan told KGTV.
The GoFundMe was successful, raising more than $105,000 for him. However, the campaign is now the root of a lawsuit brought by Giles against Cowan and his company, according to KGTV.
“There is an invasion of privacy aspect here, as well and it’s defamatory, and money was raised by him,” Giles’ attorney Michael Harrington told KGTV.
Harrington argues that Cowan used Giles’ pictures to make a profit. However, Cowan says he never involved his company. He also argues that Giles posted the photo publicly herself.
“Everything was done in a philanthropic sense and I used publicly available information to populate my GoFundMe,” Cowan said.
The lawsuit includes screenshots of death threats which Giles alleges to have received.
“I don’t see anything in her post that would warrant her being villainized, and her life being threatened,” Harrington said.
Cowan says he should not be penalized for the actions others take.
“She made a public Facebook post that went viral and I’m not responsible for whatever anybody else sends to her,” Cowan said.
Giles’ lawsuit is seeking money for damages, lost work and lawyer fees, per KGTV. Lenin is not named in the lawsuit and the money raised will remain with him.
Cowan, meanwhile, said he would do it all again because, ultimately, it benefited the young barista. Lenin says he plans to use the money to go to college and follow his dreams of becoming a dancer.