This blog is written by our law summer student, Michelle Stephenson
The unidentified defendant posted statements about the plaintiff, a lawyer and director of legal affairs at Quebecor Media Inc., first on Blogger (a Google web service), and after these were taken down by Google following a court order, on WordPress. The posts were personal attacks on the plaintiff, including suggestions that he was a lying crook, a Nazi, a pedophile, a rapist, a thief, and a “morally repugnant imbecile.” They further alleged that he took credit for being the “resident rapist” at his former law firm. The defendant also forwarded links to these posts to senior executives at the plaintiff’s workplace.
The “most colourful” of the Blogger posts were not even repeated in court. However, the judge stated that “with over 200,000 words, the English language is not entirely adequate to describe the nature of many of the posts”, but adjectives that spring to mind include “shocking, disgusting, outrageous, racist, provocative. In a (legal) word: defamatory.”
It was stated that the defendant had confused freedom of speech with defamation and that while legitimate anonymous Internet posts exist, for example criticism of repressive regimes, “there are few things more cowardly and insidious than an anonymous blogger.” The court held that “the law will afford his posts all the protection that they deserve, which is to say none.”
The court held that the statements easily met the test for defamation, finding that any ordinary, right-thinking member of the public would find that the posts exposed the plaintiff to contempt, ridicule, fear, dislike or disesteem.
In addition to $100,000 in general damages, the court saw fit to award $50,000 in aggravated damages due to the defendant’s malicious intent, violation of multiple court orders, and refusal to apologize, retract, or justify his statements creating particularly egregious circumstances. A further $50,000 in punitive damages was awarded to send “a strong message of denunciation and deterrence.”
Because the defendant’s persistent behaviour and lack of cooperation had driven up the plaintiff’s legal costs, substantial indemnity costs in the amount of $49,965.80 were also awarded.
Despite Google being compelled to disclose the defendant’s subscriber information, various court orders, and the plaintiff’s continued efforts to find the defendant, he (or she) as of yet remains an unidentified “John Doe.” Should he be identified in the future, the judge stated that (in addition to the $200,000 plus costs he now owes) he will no doubt face contempt proceedings.
Here is the link to full decision on Damages Awarded Against Anonymous Blogger for Defamation: http://digital.ontarioreports.ca/ontarioreports/20130614#pg107
For more information on Employment Law, Damages and Defamation in the Workplace or if you need an employment lawyer, contact one of the employment law lawyers of Devry Smith Frank LLP, listed on our website by clicking on their name.