A Dublin couple who were accused of not paying for a meal at a restaurant have been awarded €20,000 in damages for defamation of character.
Patrick O'Connor told Circuit Court president Justice Raymond Groarke he felt he had no choice but to empty out his pockets on the counter to search for a receipt he believed he had never been given.
Mr O'Connor's partner, Tanya Shannon, said she had to endure him being aggressively accused of not paying for four meals for themselves and two children, which she said he had done.
Barrister Ian Fitzharris, counsel for the couple, told the court that they bought lunch from the carvery at the Arc Bar and Restaurant in Lucan, Co Dublin, in 2010.
The couple, who also had their niece with them in a buggy, paid a man at the till at the end of the counter.
Mr O'Connor said that as the family started gathering up their things to leave, a man approached them and asked if they had paid.
When told they had paid another man at the till, he said: "I was at the till and you didn't pay me."
Mr O'Connor said he and his partner and children, who live at Harelawn Avenue, Clondalkin, were not allowed to leave until eventually "the other man" returned and confirmed that the meals had been paid for 40 minutes earlier.
Mr O'Connor and Ms Shannon said this man then gave them a hand-written note confirming they had paid.
Mr Fitzharris told the court that the defendant, Lackabeg Ltd, which trades as the Arc Bar and Restaurant, had not entered an appearance and judgment had been obtained against the firm.
He said no one had turned up in court to defend the couple's claims and the matter had been reduced to an assessment of damages.
Mr Fitzharris said the whole episode had been played out in full view and earshot of other diners.
He added that his clients had been made to feel as though they had committed a criminal offence and had been attempting to escape without paying.
Judge Groarke awarded Mr O'Connor and Ms Shannon €10,000 damages each for defamation of character and awarded costs against the defendant.