The National Post: Warman lawsuit "entirely unfounded"
As regular readers of this blog will know, I have been sued by Canada's most litigious human rights complainant, Richard Warman. Warman has sued me and some of Canada's other leading bloggers -- Kathy Shaidle, Kate McMillan and Connie and Mark Fournier of Free Dominion -- for criticizing his conduct as Canada's chief user of Canada's section 13 thought crimes provision. In particular, we've been sued for discussing his habit of going online under a pseudonym, and posting bigoted remarks -- strange conduct for a human rights investigator indeed.
Besides suing me and my fellow bloggers, Warman sued the National Post and its comment editor, Jonathan Kay. Kay had written a short blog item about one of Warman's online rants in which Warman called Sen. Anne Cools some outrageously racist and sexist epithets. Warman claimed he didn't write that particular screed -- though he's lied under oath about similar misdeeds before. Kay and the Post took Warman's denial at face value, and immediately pulled the blog entry. In addition, they published an apology both online and in the newspaper's print edition -- though the article only appeared on their blog.
In other words, the Post and Kay did just about everything possible to mitigate any damages alleged by Warman -- they even contacted other bloggers who had copied their original blog entry, and asked them to take it down. I've never heard of anyone going that far before.
Warman sued them nonetheless.
I didn't understand it then, and I don't understand it now. What did he think he'd get from them? Another apology? He's already got two. Or did he think that, because the Post settled so quickly once before, they'd settle again quickly, but this time with money? It just doesn't make sense to sue one of the biggest media companies in the country over such a trifle -- especially since they made Warman whole so quickly. Warman's speciality has been suing poor defendants without lawyers, or getting the Canadian Human Rights Commission to do so for him. It's just not his modus operandi to take on someone his own size -- or 1,000 times bigger.
Well, now the National Post and Jonathan Kay have filed their Statement of Defence. You can see it here. (The other defendants, including me, will be filing our defences shortly.)
The Post/Kay defence naturally is different than mine and the other defendants' will be. The Post and Kay are not standing by the substance of their blog post -- they already conceded that without a fight. Now they're fighting Warman on his decision to sue them nonetheless.
Their defence claims that Warman's reputation hasn't suffered at all, and if it did, their apologies have made up for that -- apologies that the Post notes were approved by Warman's lawyer. The Post takes on Warman in his essence: a hyper-litigious, thin-skinned complainer-of-fortune. Look at paragraph 22 of their defence:
the damages or loss claimed are excessive, exaggerated, remote, unrecognized at law, unmitigated by the Plaintiff, and unconnected with any alleged act or omission on its part, and puts the Plaintiff to strict proof thereof.
In other words, the Post is calling Warman's bluff. Normally, damages are presumed, but not when an Ontario newspaper makes an apology immediately, as the Post did. Warman will now have to demonstrate, specifically, how he was damaged by the Post, and how he's owed big bucks for it. And, if he doesn't, the Post demands "costs on a solicitor-client basis" -- in other words, every single cent of their legal bills back.
It's an elegant defence -- short and sweet. I'm pleased. Sometimes big companies find it easier and simpler to just cut a four- or five-figure cheque to get rid of a nuisance suit like this. But it's clear Warman pushed them too far; he already negotiated for two apologies and got them. The Post can sense that paying more danegeld to Warman doesn't make sense.
They're done apologizing. They didn't want a fight; they did everything reasonable to avoid one, even swallowing their pride and accepting Warman's incredible denials at face value. But now that Warman's suing, they're fighting back.
Warman added the Post to his suit because he thought they'd be a soft touch with deep pockets. But now they're coming at him for full costs. I think they'll get it, too,