No lawsuit filed yet in Big City Coffee dispute


A local coffee shop hasn’t yet filed a lawsuit after its dispute with Boise State University made Treasure Valley headlines. 

At the end of March, Big City Coffee LLC and its owner Sarah Jo Fendley filed a $10 million tort claim against the university to compensate them for damages after the university terminated the coffee shop’s contract to operate a satellite location on campus. The claim alleged Boise State “slandered and libeled” Fendley’s business, interfered with her contract with food vendor Aramark, defrauded Big City Coffee by misrepresenting “certain information” the company relied on, and violated Fendley’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

A tort claim isn’t a lawsuit, but it can precede one. Tort claims are a written demand to recover money damages from a governmental entity, its employees and/or its representatives alleging misconduct. Tort law requires that the agency involved must respond within three months. If the agency does not respond to or rejects the claim then the claimant may sue the agency.

The three-month deadline for Boise State to respond to the claim and payout damages to Fendley passed at the end of June, according to IdahoEdNews. This opened the door for a lawsuit to move ahead, but since then there haven’t been any filings in the case. 

Fendley’s attorney, Michael Roe with Givens Pursley, did not respond to a request for comment.

The dispute between the coffee shop and its allegation that Boise State University’s “extreme social justice agenda” pushed the coffee shop out of its contract was a flashpoint in the ongoing dispute between the university and its right-wing legislators and conservative groups. The tort claim was filed in the midst of the 2021 Idaho Legislative session and earned a mention on the Senate floor by Sen. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, during the debate over budget cuts for Idaho’s higher education institutions over “social justice issues.”

Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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