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State Reaches Settlement In Abbey Inn Bad Review Lawsuit

A sign for The Yellowwood hotel

The Abbey Inn has since been rebranded as The Yellowwood. (Becca Costello, WFIU/WTIU News)

The State and the former owner of a Brown County hotel have reached a settlement in a 2017 lawsuit stemming from a $350 fee charged to a customer who left a negative online review.

The settlement, reached in February, grants the customer $350, and the state $5,000 in legal fees and $5,000 in civil penalties. 

Katrina Arthur says after her stay in 2016, she posted an online review that said there was hair and dirt on the sheets in her room and other cleanliness issues. 

Indiana’s attorney general’s office contends that Andrew Szakaly, the owner of Abbey Management Inc. and the former operator of the hotel, violated the state’s deceptive consumer sales act by charging guests $350 if they posted negative reviews but didn’t inform management about problems during their stay. 

Indiana’s lawsuit says Arthur had not seen the hotel’s review policy online and she wasn’t provided with a copy of it during her stay. It contends Arthur tried to complain about the room’s condition while staying at the inn, but no employee was on-site and her calls to an after-hours telephone number went unanswered.

When Arthur checked out of the hotel, there was no one at the front desk she could complain to, the suit says.

After Arthur received an email from the hotel asking her to leave an online review of her stay, she posted her review “recounting the issues she encountered,” the complaint says. On April 2, 2016, it alleges she received a letter from Szakaly saying her “false statements” had harmed the business and demanding she remove the review within one week or face legal action for libel, the state’s suit says.

A few days later, her credit card was charged $350 because of the negative review, it says. She filed a complaint with the state attorney general’s office, which filed the lawsuit on her behalf. 

Szakaly says he no longer operates the hotel, which has since been rebranded as The Yellowwood. 

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