Tycho Manson, a lawyer with Sun Media Corp., is seeking $1 million in damages for statements allegedly made by an anonymous blogger and participants on the web site lawbuzzlitigation.blogspot.com.
Manson also wants a further $1 million for aggravated and punitive damages, according to a statement of claim filed with the Ontario Superior Court.
Manson is one of four lawyers accused of making statements that, according to AdviceScene, cast doubt on the legitimacy of its service. AdviceScene settled with Lawbuzz on the understanding that it would help to identify the four posters who made their comments using Lawbuzz aliases.
In his suit, Manson claims three posts on the Lawbuzzlitigation site after a story about his involvement in the matter appeared in Law Times were defamatory.
Taken together with other comments on the site, his statement of claim says they suggest he’s dishonest and a coward. Some of the comments he complains about are extremely graphic in nature, according to the claim. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Manson suffered particular distress as a result of comments about his relationship with his spouse aiming to cast it “in a negative, obscene, and even violent light,” he alleged in the claim. Manson refused comment when reached by Law Times.
According to the statement of claim, the blogger also e-mailed senior executives at Manson’s employer and affiliated companies with a link to the Lawbuzzlitigation web site. “These e-mails constitute republication of all the defamatory statements,” the claim alleges.
Manson also claims in the suit that the blog has damaged his professional reputation because he needs to work with counsel from across the country, many of whom he doesn’t know well. The blog pops up high in the list of Google search results, according to the statement of claim.
In a move reminiscent of the process that revealed the identities of the Lawbuzz defendants, Manson’s lawyers filed a notice of motion with the court on July 19 indicating their intention to seek an order that would force Google, the owner of the service that hosts the blog, to reveal identifying information about the writer, including details about the Internet service provider. According to the filing, Google has repeatedly refused requests to shut the blog down.
Two of the allegedly defamatory posts were gone by Wednesday, ahead of a hearing on the motion the next day. All three of them subsequently disappeared, but a defiant posting boasted that the entire contents of the blog had been mirrored to other web sites and could easily be found.
“A simple search engine search will spew out cached copies of this blog,” according to a posting on Thursday.
“We will voluntarily purge the remaining entries on this blog,” the site goes on to note.
Law Times’ attempts to contact the blog elicited an e-mailed response from a person claiming to be the anonymous blogger.
“We vehemently and categorically deny Mr. Manson’s baseless, unfounded, capricious, and laughable claims,” the blogger wrote, noting Manson never got in touch about his concerns. “This action is nothing more than a clever attempt to silence dissent and constructive criticisms.”
The blog has taken a hard line on the Lawbuzz defendants by agreeing with the forum’s decision to hand over the names of the posters.
“In totality, Lawbuzz did the right thing and individual posters should be held accountable for their individual posts,” the blogger said in the e-mail. “Moral of the story: post whatever you want, at your discretion and peril.”
At the same time, the blogger insists the identity of whoever is behind the web site is irrelevant since “we flatly deny and vehemently reject the notion that anything we have posted to date is even remotely defamatory.”
Nevertheless, the blog is distancing itself from the anonymous contributors to its web site listed as the John Doe defendants in Manson’s action by claiming it can’t take responsibility for online posters because, according to the e-mail, it doesn’t “have the manpower and resources to monitor every single anonymous post.”
For more on this story, see "Lawbuzz posters had added duty: AdviceScene," "Lawbuzz suit ups ante, names three more lawyers," and "Online comments spark messy litigation."