The Hamilton Spectator
Saturday, July 11, 1998
page A1

Philip suing dozens

by David Akin, dakin@ham.southam.ca

Philip Services Corp. has launched a sweeping lawsuit against as many as 100 people it says defamed company executives and leaked confidential financial information.

Former alderman John Gallagher may be among the defendants in that suit, which revolves around an Internet message board operated by Yahoo! Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif.

"I'm not in a position to reply because I don't know anything about it", Gallagher said last night. "I haven't been put on notice. They haven't served me with anything."

It's the latest revelation in a complicated cat-and-mouse game between Philip and critics who have used the anonymity of cyberspace to fire broadsides at the Hamilton-based firm.

The suit, filed June 4, also reveals that Philip believes that some of its harshest critics may be either current or former employees and that those individuals may have revealed confidential business or financial information which influenced the price of Philip's stock.

The defendants' "conduct toward Philip has been oppressive and engaged in with an intent to injure, vex, and harass Philip", the suit says.

Philip filed the suit in the Superior Court of Santa Clara County, Calif. The case is in a California court because the owner of the forum in which the alleged defamation took place has its corporate head office in Santa Clara.

The suit alleges that several individuals, using pseudonyms or aliases, posted messages on an Internet chat board operated by Yahoo! Inc., that defamed some Philip executives and revealed confidential financial or operational information about the Hamilton-based company.

The suit names John Doe 1 through John Doe 100 as defendants. The term John Doe or Jane Doe is frequently used by police and court officials as a stand-in name for a person whose identity is not known or whose identity is being protected by the court.

The Spectator learned of the existence of the lawsuit yesterday, after Philip had used courts in Ontario and California to force Yahoo! and several Internet service providers to reveal the identity of the John Does.

It was through that initiative that Philip learned Gallagher may be one of those John Does. He confirmed Thursday that he did, indeed, post messages to the Yahoo! site about Philip using several different aliases.

Philip vice-president Lynda Kuhn said yesterday that her company has not yet decided on its next course of action.

Internet and legal experts suggested that if Philip wanted to sue Gallagher, its next step would be to apply for a court order to seize Gallagher's computer equipment as possible evidence in any court proceeding.


Copyright © 1998 by The Hamilton Spectator. All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.