A large, publicly traded company in the United States claiming libel, has sued me for $3.5 million US dollars in alleged damages. While I am confident that I will probably win the libel case, their action was filed in Ontario. Due to the vagaries of the differences in law in different jurisdictions, having the matter heard in Ontario could ultimately force me to reveal my sources for a series of articles I wrote, and in particular whistleblower(s) from within the U.S. company, whose provision of documents and audio/video material, revealed internal problems that the U.S. company apparently did not want known publicly.
I, of course, fought that suit by way of a motion asking for a change in venue from Ontario to either Quebec or the United States. Besides the fact that I live in Quebec, and the story is only dealing with US-based issues, I cannot legally be compelled in these alternate jurisdictions to reveal my sources. In Ontario, which still operates under Commonwealth law, I may have to.
I received word on Monday that we lost the change of venue motion.
What does this ruling mean?
- I am responsible not only for my own lawyers’ bill, but for $22,000.00 of the U. S. company’s costs.
- Sadly, it also looks like I may be legally compelled to reveal the names of the people who came forward with information because they wanted to do what was right.
Blogger Defence Fund Link: https://www.gofundme.com/bloggerfund
In terms of pressing forward with this suit, for about the first 20 or 30 minutes after I learned of the result of the motion, I was in a state of not shock, but certainly notable uneasiness – perhaps even fear. It is one thing to stand true to your principles when you know that what you have written is true, and quite another when you come face-to-face with Goliath by way of the judge’s decision on the motion.
My motives for initially writing the story of this company and subsequent posts, were never tied to a monetary consideration of any kind. I have, and likely never will, receive a dime for what I have written. Sure, my readership increased because of my coverage of this particular U. S. company and the NIGP, as well as the numerous other stories I was willing to take on. People responded by saying that at last someone was telling it like it is in our industry. In fact, I recently received a message from one reader saying that they are glad that I hadn’t been silenced, and that my coverage of the industry continues.
But make no mistake, I am a flawed human being, and am in no position to judge anyone, let alone serve as the voice of conscience for an entire industry. I didn’t look for this, it came to me over a period of time and through a number of diverse and unrelated sources – including those who had either worked or, were still working, at the company. As was the case with the other stories about which I wrote, they had a need to tell someone about situations that weighed heavily on them, and they believed that I was the only chance for the truth to ever come out.
This is why it has been particularly difficult to remain silent these past few months, especially when I am sitting on information from some of the same reliable sources who have been undeterred by the legal action, as well as new ones. I felt that I had bowed out, and that I owed an apology to both them and my readers.
The only thing that assuaged this feeling was the fact that from a legal standpoint, it was the smart or prudent thing to do and, telling myself that I had taken the story as far as I could at the time.
After talking with my wife, as well as praying – and yes, it may not be politically correct to talk about this, but I do usually pray about everything I write before I post it, I am going to fight this.
The basis for this decision is simple; I told the truth.
I did the research and provided a fair (albeit sometimes harsh commentary) based on the information provided by my sources, and my corresponding research.
Another factor in my decision is that at multiple points in time, I gave the U. S. company opportunities to come forward and have their side of the story told – even going so far as to give them free and unfettered access to my readership.
For whatever reason, they declined. Instead, they turned to the courts and to lawyers and they have a bigger chequebook than mine. I hope that you will provide your support by way of a contribution to offset my legal costs – which I estimate will be approximately $100,000.
Once again, and despite my best efforts and significant personal expenditure, I may now be forced to reveal my sources – and make public all related documents. While this will help my case, as it will provide proof of the accuracy of my coverage, it does little to lessen my regret for those individuals who had the courage to come forward so that the truth could be heard.
As outlined above, we will now begin the process of going to trial so that the truth – not my version of the truth, or the U. S. Company’s version of the truth . . . but the truth, the whole truth, will come out.
In this regard, I am more than comfortable with the prospect of this happening, or as my father would say – letting the chips fall where they may.
I hope that I can count on your support by way of a donation through the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/bloggerfund