Domainz CEO Patrick O'Brien has sharply raised the stakes in his defamation lawsuit against Manawatu Internet director Alan Brown.
On Friday, O'Brien's lawyers served Brown with an amended statement of claim, in which the plaintiff now wants general damages of $85,000, punitive damages of $55,000, costs and "such further relief … as may be just".
The total bill for Brown, if he were to defend and lose the case, would now approach a quarter of a million dollars. O'Brien's lawsuit is being funded by his employer, from the proceeds of domain name registration, with the support of Domainz' owner, the Isocnz council.
O'Brien's original statement of claim, filed last month, primarily demanded a public apology from Brown for allegedly defamatory statements made in a posting to the Internet Society of New Zealand (Isocnz) members' mailing list late last year.
But the new statement of claim alleges that Brown published his statement "in flagrant disregard of the rights of the plaintiff and as such warrants an award of punitive damage."
It cites Brown's subsequent action in scanning the original claim and publishing it on his Website, and includes four further messages posted by Brown to the Isocnz public mailing list and newsgroup, which he announced he was being sued by O'Brien.
The new statement of claim also corrects the original's statement that the alleged defamation was made on "an electronic discussion group bulletin board on the World Wide Web" and now uses the more conventional terms "email list" and "newsgroup".
But Peter McKnight, the second solicitor from defamation specialists Izard Weston to handle the case, still seems confused about the mechanisms Brown is alleged to have used.
Although the original alleged defamation was made in a posting to the Isocnz members' list (which has around 170 subscribers), the statement of claim says it also went to "the newsgroup", nz.isocnz.org.
But it is only the Isocnz public list that is gated to nz.org.isocnz, and although Brown's original statement did eventually appear in the newsgroup, it was not posted there by Brown, but other Isocnz members, subsequent to O'Brien's lawsuit.
Spelling and grammar in the original statement of claim have also been improved.
Brown told IDGNet last night that the suit was "a vendetta" and O'Brien's new move was "so obviously gagging it's not funny … he's destroying his own reputation."