Vancouver lawyer sues Google over ‘defamatory' search results

Glenn J. Niemela, a civil litigator in Vancouver, B.C., first became aware of the issue after a Google search of his name.

In October 2012, Niemela’s search of variations on his name on the tech giant’s search engine led him to an online review site. He alleges the site contained defamatory posts accusing him of, among other things, overbilling and scamming clients, accusations he says are false and are reflected in Google search results.

Niemela filed a statement of claim against Google Inc. in B.C. Supreme Court on Nov. 26. It seeks injunctions forcing the search engine to remove the “defamatory snippets,” which are referred to in the claim as “false, malicious, and defamatory,” as well as seeks damages for libel and slander.

The statement of claim also wants Google to publish a “full and complete retraction of the expressions complained of” as well as a declaration that the “snippets” are defamatory.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Niemela says Google recently filed an application response opposing the relief sought by Niemela on Oct. 30 and a hearing is set for Dec. 15 for an interim injunction, which Google is also opposing.

Google had been refusing to remove the allegedly defamatory material from its search engine results despite his requests, through a notice of application served to the company on Oct. 6 and followed by Niemela’s personal requests via e-mail on Oct. 27 and 31. Google filed an application response opposing the relief sought by Niemela on Oct. 30.

But recently Niemela says he secured a victory.

“They have, two or three days ago, removed all the references,” Niemela tells Legal Feeds. “That was done voluntarily by Google.”

He does note one defamatory reference still comes up on his iPhone search, but not on his desktop.

Despite Google’s steps to remove the content, Niemela says he will not be dropping the lawsuit. He secured a trial date last week, set for Jan. 6, 2016. He exptects it will last five days.

Google hasn’t filed a defence yet, but Niemela notes the company still has a period of time left to file it.

The defamatory comments are believed to originate from a former client, who allegedly harassed Niemela, according to the statement of claim.

Niemela filed a separate notice of civil claim in August against his former client, which was amended on Oct. 23. He refused to discuss that aspect of the proceedings.

A spokeswoman for Google said it is not able to provide a comment on the proceedings at this time.

She did refer to online advice and resources the company offers on how to get content removed, as well as the general advice provided on how to manage your reputation online.

Update Dec. 15: website reference removed.

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