A Sooke man’s $50-million lawsuit against Facebook claiming the social media giant failed to remove an imposter account will proceed despite Facebook’s attempts to have it thrown out.
Timothy Durkin filed his civil suit in August 2020 after an account impersonating him and alleging his involvement in a U.S. Ponzi scheme popped up on Facebook. The allegations in question accuse Durkin of selling a $1-million fake ownership interest in the Sooke Harbour House hotel, and are now backed by the B.C. Securities Commission.
Durkin says he discovered the profile in March 2020 and immediately tried to report it as identity theft to Facebook, but received a pop-up window notifying him the request couldn’t be processed.
Durkin says he and friends tried to report it numerous other times over several months and received the same error message, before he couriered a letter directly to the managing director of Facebook Canada in July.
When he didn’t hear back, Durkin filed his civil suit, claiming $50 million in damages, the removal of the account and the disclosure of the people running it.
Facebook, now known as Meta, has since tried to convince the BC Supreme Court to throw out the claim. In a May 2021 application, Meta argued Durkin’s claim and its enormous price tag are a publicity stunt and abuse the process of the court. Meta called this “scandalous, frivolous or vexatious.”
Justice John Steeves disagreed in his Aug. 3 decision, saying he believes Durkin’s claim was intended to have the imposter account removed, not just to stir up media coverage.
The imposter account was, in fact, removed following Durkin’s initial claim and the accompanying media coverage. Whether it was done so by Meta or the account owners remains unknown, although Meta claims the latter.
In its application to have the lawsuit dismissed, Meta also said Durkin’s claim fails to comply with Rules of Court.
Here, Steeves agreed, noting that the current claim doesn’t cover the four elements of negligence and lacks evidence on how Durkin’s privacy was breached and what, if any, damage was caused as a result. Still, Steeves said the court must allow some leniency for self-represented individuals, who don’t know the ins and outs of the law. He concluded Durkin should be given the opportunity to amend his claim.
“The claim has its difficulties, for sure, but I am unable at this stage to conclude that it is bound to fail,” Steeves said.