Colorado Springs attorney Timothy Bussey was incensed when he read a comment on his Google Map page declaring him a “scumbag” and accusing him of paying for positive internet reviews of his legal skills. The anonymous source, ostensibly a dissatisfied client, also wrote that Bussey “lost 80% of his cases”.
Needless to say, the post was damaging to his reputation and his business as a lawyer. It was also not true, so he hired a California law firm to find out who the “internet troll” was.
After months of legal manoeuvering Bussey was able to issue a subpoena to Google who were compelled to disclose the source of the post, enabling him to locate 20-year-old Jason Page of Telford, England. Young Mr. Page denied any culpability for the online defamation, insisting that his Google account had been hacked, but a British court threw the book at him, ordering him to pay 50,000 pounds in damages and an additional 50,000 pounds in costs to Mr. Bussey, pending a full accounting of his costs.
Judge Sir David Eady surmised that while it was difficult to understand why Mr. Page had attacked Bussey it was likely because he received a financial reward for his effort.
Taking into account the length of time the post remained online, over one year, and the ‘grapevine effect’ of the internet, the judge said he had no doubt that the post had caused serious damage to Mr. Bussey and his firm’s good name.
As for Bussey, he is determined to find out who paid Jason Page to ruin his livelihood and has every intention of initiating further legal proceedings.
England’s reputation as the “libel tourist” capital of the world has been well-deserved because of its liberal defamation laws. Prior to recent amendments to the law, persons could successfully sue for libel without proving any damage to their reputation, it was enough that the impugned language was capable of inflicting damage. As well, England allowed persons who had no connection to Britain to use their libel laws and court system to chill freedom of speech, an infringement that the Defamation Act of 2013 has now eliminated.
Whether you are a plumber, a restaurant owner, or a lawyer, your business lives or dies based on your reputation in the community. As Warren Buffet said “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang