SBD/April 29, 2013/People and Pop Culture

Burke Files Libel Lawsuit Against Internet Commentators Who Alleged Broadcaster Affair

Burke was fired in January after a four-year tenure with the Maple Leafs
Former Maple Leafs President & GM BRIAN BURKE on Friday “filed a defamation lawsuit” against online commentators “who allegedly ‘spread lies over the Internet’ after Burke was fired earlier this year,” according to Jessica McDiarmid of the TORONTO STAR. The suit filed in B.C. Supreme Court “alleges 18 defendants commenting anonymously under Internet user names defamed Burke by suggesting he had an extra-marital affair” with Rogers Sportsnet's HAZEL MAE and “that he was the father of her child.” Burke's attorney, PETER GALL of Heenan Blaikie LLP, said that the plaintiff “doesn’t yet know the real identities of the defendants listed on the notice of claim with names such as ‘Loob’ and ‘Mowerman.’” Gall said that the next step is “to seek court orders against the websites that published the comments, compelling them to disclose the real names.” Gall said in a release on Friday, “Brian has decided that it is time to stop people who post comments on the Internet from thinking they can fabricate wild stories with impunity” (TORONTO STAR, 4/27).

WATCH WHAT YOU SAY: In Toronto, Amy Dempsey wrote Burke’s “mission to unmask 18 anonymous commentators who he alleges defamed him underscores a point many are learning the hard way as cyber-libel cases become increasingly common: What is written online, even anonymously, can come back to bite the authors.” Libel lawyer RYDER GILLILAND said, “This will be a very public reminder to people that you can get sued for what you publish on the Internet.” Getting court orders compelling web hosts to identify the defendants is "something that judges in Canada are generally willing to do, depending on the strength of the case.” But it is “likely to be an arduous process.” At least one of the 18 people named in Burke’s lawsuit “responded late Friday, anonymously, to the allegations.” Twitter user @THEzbrad wrote, “Brian Burke is suing me. I think he’s just angry that ‘his’ Toronto team finally made the playoffs. Sorry Burkey” (TORONTO STAR, 4/28).

CALLED TO ACCOUNT: Mae's attorney, IAIN MACKINNON, wrote in a statement, “Hazel Mae fully supports the lawsuit brought forth by Mr. Burke and feels strongly that people should be held accountable for writing and spreading malicious lies over the Internet. Ms. Mae is still considering all of her legal options. She will not be commenting further on the matter at this time” (Rogers Sportsnet).
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