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11 December 2013
There has recently been further development in the ongoing court battles between Jeremy Cooperstock and United Airlines. Cooperstock is a McGill University engineering professor who has operated a website dedicated to criticising United Airlines for more than 15 years. After United merged with Continental Airlines, it commenced two court proceedings against Cooperstock.
The first is a copyright and trademark infringement action brought in the Federal Court – the parties are engaged in pre-trial discovery in that action. In the second proceeding the airlines brought a motion for a permanent injunction in the Quebec Superior Court and are seeking the removal of all contact information for three of their employees from Cooperstock's website.
Cooperstock brought a motion to put an early stop to the airlines' bid for a permanent injunction and relied, in part, on Quebec's anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. These provisions came into force in 2009. In February 2013 the Quebec Superior Court dismissed Cooperstock's motion and set a timetable for the injunction proceeding.
Cooperstock, who considers himself a consumer advocate, sought leave to appeal the decision. The Court of Appeal declined either to grant or deny leave, and instead referred the matter to a panel of three appeal court judges.
Cooperstock had actually brought two motions to dismiss the airlines' motion for an injunction. In addition to the anti-SLAPP motion, which is governed by Articles 54.1 to 54.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, he brought a more conventional motion to dismiss under Article 165(4), according to which a court may dismiss an action if "[t]he suit is unfounded in law, even if the facts alleged are true". The court must simply determine whether the action or motion cannot succeed on the face of the pleading.
By contrast, a court hearing an anti-SLAPP motion must consider the larger context, including evidence from the parties. The Quebec Superior Court dismissed both of Cooperstock's motions, apparently in tandem, and did not factor in evidence tendered by Cooperstock in support of his anti-SLAPP motion. Specifically, Cooperstock had entered evidence to show that the contact information of the airlines' employees posted on his website was made available on the internet by the airlines themselves.
At the second hearing on the motion for leave to appeal the panel heard arguments from each side and ruled from the bench. The court granted both leave and the appeal. The court quashed the earlier Quebec Superior Court judgment and ordered that Cooperstock's anti-SLAPP motion be re-heard.
The Quebec Superior Court must now hear and consider Cooperstock's evidence to determine whether the airlines' request for an injunction is an improper use of the courts, meant only to silence or intimidate Cooperstock.
For further information on this topic please contact Carlos P Martins or Andrew W Macdonald at Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn LLP by telephone (+1 416 982 3800), fax (+1 416 982 3801) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Bersenas Jacobsen Chouest Thomson Blackburn website can be accessed at www.lexcanada.com.
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