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Burke wins right to serve anonymous commenters online

Brian Burke

Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke addresses the media during a news conference in Toronto on Tuesday April 12, 2011. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)


Former Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke is suing 18 anonymous internet commenters who wrote online that he had an affair with, and impregnated, a sports reporter.

Now a British Columbia court has given him the ability to serve those anonymous commenters online rather than in person, according to the Toronto Star.

The Star’s Curtis Rush explains:

This is not unprecedented, legal experts say, since there are other cases of hard-to-identify people being notified through Facebook and Twitter that they have been sued.

However, it is unusual since the courts want to ensure that plaintiffs have exhausted all other means to identify the defendants and serve them in person.

Burke has been unsuccessful in finding the people behind the user names who allegedly posted the defamatory statements in January on several online message boards.

Burke had requested to serve seven of the 18 defendants in this fashion. That list includes people with aliases like “Slobberface” and “NoFixedAddress.”

“We have excluded defendants who cannot be served in this way or who we already have some other identifying information,” Burke’s lawyer, Robert Grant explained.

Based on Burke’s application, the former general manager reach out to the administrators of the applicable message boards for help in identifying the anonymous defendants, but none of the sites provided him with that information.

Below are the seven users Burke asked to serve online. He doesn’t intend to send these people notice via private message. Instead he plans to message them with a link to the actual notice of claim.