Tuesday afternoon, the Austin American-Statesman broke big news about a small lawsuit: an Austin man named Brandon Vezmar had filed a suit against a woman who he met on the dating app Bumble, alleging that she had been texting during the movie the two saw on their date, and owed him the price of a ticket ($17.31) to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in 3D. The story quickly picked up steam, and by that evening, the viral lawsuit got Guardians director James Gunn to chime in. Pop culture website the A.V. Club declared the man a “hero,” and on Wednesday, the Alamo Drafthouse offered Vezmar a gift certificate for $17.31 in an attempt to settle the suit.
The story has largely been treated as a quirky case of a person attempting to correct bad behavior through unusual means—but a statement the defendant offered to the media about the case indicates that there’s more than one way to view the situation. The 35-year-old Round Rock woman wrote:
I did have a very brief date with Brandon, that I chose to end prematurely. His behavior made me extremely uncomfortable, and I felt I needed to remove myself from the situation for my own safety. He has escalated the situation far past what any mentally healthy person would. I feel sorry that I hurt his feelings badly enough that he felt he needed to commit so much time and effort into seeking revenge. I hope one day he can move past this and find peace in his life.
The woman who went on the date with Vezmar, according to legal filings, left during the movie. After the story went viral, Vezmar created a Twitter account on which he shared text messages between himself and the defendant:
Flaky plaintiff has now put out statement saying I made her feel unsafe during movie. Sure. Here’s us texting. You judge. pic.twitter.com/41sdQNPEL9
— Brandon Vezmar (@BrandonVezmar) May 17, 2017
In response to accusations that he contacted her friends and family after the date, Vezmar posted a screenshot from his Facebook account, which he said he did in an attempt to get her address for the paperwork.
1/2 My ‘harassing’ message to Plaintiff's family. All identical. Needed address for small court filing. Didn't have it. None replied. pic.twitter.com/ufNR4GFfuf
— Brandon Vezmar (@BrandonVezmar) May 17, 2017
The woman in question didn’t respond to a request for an interview, but Vezmar spoke to Texas Monthly about why he filed the suit. He said that after he got the text message he posted to Twitter, in which she told him that a friend was having an emergency, he decided he needed to take legal action. “I thought to myself, ‘No, there’s no responsibility here. It’s not her friend, it’s her. It’s not her phone, it’s her. It’s not me, it’s her,'” he explained of his reasoning.
Vezmar, who described the encounter as “the date from hell,” said that he didn’t think that his companion/defendant had a particularly bad time. But he did. “I don’t know that this was a bad date for her,” he said. “I think that this was probably a really great date for her. I was really nice. She seemed to be having a great time up until the point when I asked her to stop texting. I bought her pizza, drove her car—I thought that this was a fun, nice date. I wasn’t actually interested in seeing her again very early on, but she was nice, the conversation was light. I felt comfortable continuing the date. I don’t think that this was a bad experience for her. I think this was a bad experience for me. I think what’s a bad experience for her at this point is being held responsible for her bad behavior. And I don’t think she’s handling that very well.”
Vezmar characterized the defendant’s statement as “untruth,” denying that he made the woman feel uncomfortable or contacted her family “in inappropriate ways.” “Instead of just calling me up and paying me $17 for the movie ticket she squandered, she’s continuing to play these games,” he said.
For Vezmar, it’s not just about the defendant. It’s about the practice of texting during movies in public, and the dynamics of dating in 2017 more broadly. When asked if he believes that there’s an implicit contract when two people agree to go on a date and one of those people pays for both movie tickets that, if one person behaves poorly in the theater, they owe the other party a refund, Vezmar seized on the opportunity to address that larger issue.
“Here’s what I think: I think the implicit contracts in dating need to stop, because I think that men are being exploited by people like the defendant,” Vezmar explained. “I purchased these movie tickets in advance because the movie was sold out, or selling out, everywhere. This was one of the last places I could get tickets. So out of convenience, I purchased two tickets in advance on Fandango. I think the implicit understanding on her part—in fact, I know—was that this was a date, the ticket was a gift, and she didn’t owe anything. That was an assumption she made, because she believes that those are the rules of the game. She has taken advantage of that. She’s taken advantage of someone else’s courtesy and generosity.”
Vezmar said that he did not ask her to pay him for the price of the ticket before the movie started. “Perhaps this is me assuming that empowered women are now playing by the new rules, which is personal responsibility,” Vezmar said. He added that, though he may not have allowed the implicit understanding that he would be paying for the date to continue until after she chose to end the date early, he did find the fact that she didn’t offer to split the check “very unattractive.” “I appreciate it when a woman reaches for her wallet or offers to pay for her part of a date,” he said. “I don’t always accept it, but I appreciate the gesture.”
The Drafthouse hadn’t yet made their own offer to Vezmar at the time we spoke, so it’s unclear if he’ll accept. But if, like he said, this is a matter of personal responsibility, it appears to be unlikely that the offer of reimbursement from a third-party is likely to satisfy Vezmar. Vezmar isn’t looking for an apology from the defendant—just $17.31 and an admission that he’s right.
“If she called me up right now—and didn’t even apologize—and just said, ‘Here’s your $17 for the movie ticket, I recognize that you bought me a ticket and that ticket was not mine, and after what I did with it I was supposed to compensate you for the ticket,’ this would be over,” he said. “Over!“