England: internet troll handed £100,000 bill after posting anonymous critical review of American law firm
An internet troll faces a £100,000 bill after an American lawyer successfully sued him for libel.
Jason Page, 19, left a review on Google Maps describing Timothy Bussey, a Colorado lawyer, as “a scumbag” who “loses 80 per cent of his cases”, theHigh Court heard.
Mr Bussey suffered serious damage to his firm’s reputation as a result of the review, Mr Justice Eady ruled.
He awarded damages of £50,000 to Mr Bussey and told Mr Page, from Telford, to set aside a further £50,000 to cover legal costs.
The bill is thought to be the largest ever handed to an internet troll in a defamation case.
Following the judgment, Will Richmond-Coggan, Mr Bussey’s solicitor, said: “We hope this decision sends a message that fake negative reviews have a real impact on real people and those who post them can and will be held accountable.”
He added that Mr Page’s review may have been solicited by others and said Mr Bussey would take further legal action to find out who was ultimately responsible for the review.
Mr Page denied the allegations.
Google Maps users can leave reviews about businesses which are then indexed on Google.
In this case, the review remained online for a year and would have been read by potential clients of the law firm, the court was told.
Mr Bussey used a lawyer in California to subpoena Google’s records, which led them back to Mr Page.
He told the court a hacker may have commandeered his computer to post the review and that the hacker may have been attempting revenge for Mr Page’s actions as a moderator of the website Reddit.
But Mr Justice Eady said this would have been a challenge given as the hacker would need to bypass passwords as well as sophisticated security in place.
He said the “overwhelming probability” was that Mr Page either wrote the post or authorised it.
He was refused permission to appeal – though he has until April 1 to apply to the Court of Appeal.