A B.C. man’s lawsuit against Facebook – in which he seeks $50 million in damages because the social media giant failed to remove an ‘impostor page’ – will be allowed to go ahead. prosecute, according to a court order.
The decision, posted online this week, follows a hearing in June in which Facebook argued that the complaint should be dismissed because it was “outrageous, frivolous or vexatious,” wrote Judge John J. Steves.
THE IMPOST PAGE
The claim was originally filed by Vancouver Island resident Timothy Craig Durkin in 2020. In March of that year, according to a summary included in the ruling, Durkin was told there was an account Facebook using his identity “without his knowledge or consent”. .”
Because Durkin himself didn’t have an account on the platform, he asked friends and others to report the account online. Durkin, on the other hand, said he followed the process for allowing non-Facebook users to report these types of accounts.
“Upon clicking the submit button, the requester received a pop-up stating ‘Your request could not be processed. There was a problem with this request. We are working to resolve it as soon as possible,” the court documents say.
Over the next three months, Durkin said, he tried that option to no avail. He also claims that Facebook users who reported the account received no response.
On July 21, 2020, Durkin’s claim states that he sent a letter to the company’s general manager in Canada “describing the identity theft and requesting that the impostor’s page be removed from the social media network” , the court said. When the complaint was filed the following month, no response had been received.
Durkin’s claim argues that the company “acted recklessly, negligently and deliberately” in allowing the “creation of an impostor account without verifying the identity of the account holder and allowing it to remain online despite requests deletion”.
“The relief sought in Plaintiff’s claim includes aggravated and punitive damages in the amount of $50 million, removal of the impostor page, and disclosure of the identity of the person(s) responsible for the creating the impostor page,” Steeves wrote.
Defendants Meta Platforms Inc. (formerly Facebook Inc.) and Facebook Canada Ltd. have denied all claims and they have not been tested in court.
FACEBOOK APPLIES FOR CASE TO BE DISMISSED
They asked that the claim be struck out under the Supreme Court’s Civil Rule 9-5, which allows the court to dismiss all or part of a claim on four grounds, including that the case has no chance of succeeding. succeed and that the claim is an abuse of process. .
Durkin argued that any problems with his application were because he is not an attorney and is representing himself.
Steeves eventually – but with reservations – sided with Durkin.
“I disagree with the defendants that the request discloses no reasonable claim, that it is unnecessary, scandalous, frivolous or vexatious, that it may harm, embarrass or delay the fair trial or the hearing of the procedure, or is otherwise an abuse of the Court’s process,” he wrote.
“The application has its difficulties, of course, but I am unable at this stage to conclude that it is doomed.”
CLAIM MUST BE AMENDED
The judge found problems with the lawsuit, in particular that the four elements required to claim negligence were not described, nor the ways in which the company is accused of breaching privacy legislation. Durkin will be allowed to modify his application to include these elements.
“In my view, it is quite clear that Plaintiff claims that Defendants acted negligently and contrary to privacy legislation when they used their platform to post information on Plaintiff’s behalf and allowed someone to another to open an account in his name, all without his permission,” the court said.
“He further says that the defendants were negligent in not deleting the impostor’s account for five months.”
Durkin’s case was reported in the media, and the company argued that the $50 million claim was a “publicity stunt” and an abuse of process serious enough to warrant quashing the claim.
Although Durkin explicitly used the phrase “to get media attention” in one of his responses to the company, the judge was not convinced that this was enough to prove the claim itself or that the damages sought were “vexatious or an abuse of legal process.”
Durkin also said that after his months-long effort to have the fake account taken down, the media exposure resulted in it being taken down “within minutes,” the court heard.
Steeves’ decision emphasized that although Durkin does not have an attorney in this case, “considerable qualification is required to describe him as self-represented in the sense of inexperienced”, noting his involvement as a party in seven other lawsuits.
Facebook argued that Durkin’s conduct in other cases exemplified a pattern of “deliberate and willful disregard of the rules and orders of this court,” according to the ruling, which noted that Durkin had been tried. in an “evasive” case. , combative, deliberately vague and often dishonest.”
Steeves also said a case brought by Durkin was dismissed under the 9-5 rule and in another a judge found he swore a false affidavit.
“I’m not sure defendants’ arguments go that far, but I don’t conclude that plaintiff’s conduct in previous cases alone means that the action in question is barred from proceeding,” he said. -he writes.
“In the event that Plaintiff’s conduct as reflected in previous cases recurs, then it is open to Defendants to respond with appropriate judicial demands.”