On January 13, 2020, in Theralase Technologies Inc v Lanter, 2020 ONSC 205, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (Court) granted summary judgment in a defamation case against a number of unnamed, pseudonymous authors of internet postings.
The allegedly defamatory postings were made on the online discussion website Stockhouse.com by ten different accounts. Prior to commencing the action, the plaintiffs, Theralase Technologies Inc, Roger Dumoulin-White and Kristina Hachev, obtained an order requiring that Stockhouse.com produce information identifying the individuals responsible for the accounts. Stockhouse.com produced email addresses for all but one. The plaintiffs then sent libel notices and requests for identification to the email addresses, and also sent them by private message to the defendants on the Stockhouse.com platform. However, many of the email addresses generated error messages and appeared to no longer be in use. The plaintiffs subsequently brought a motion for default judgement against the still unidentified defendants.
The Rules of Civil Procedure, RRO 1990, Reg 194, do not anticipate final judgments being granted against unidentified defendants. Generally, civil proceedings involve claims and judgments in personam.
The Court reviewed the manner in which the plaintiffs’ claim was communicated to the defendants, determining that the plaintiffs’ communication was likely to bring the claim to the attention of the defendants. The Court held that as long as the form of service “can reasonably be expected to bring the proceedings to the attention of a defendant”, the Court has jurisdiction over the defendant regardless of how they are identified.
The Court entered summary judgment against the pseudonymous defendants, with damages assessed per defendant. The Court acknowledged that there will likely be significant challenges in enforcing the default judgement, but that these challenges do not influence the determination of whether default judgement can be obtained.
Summary By: Alessia Monastero
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