Lawyers representing former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown on Monday filed a statement of claim in Superior Court against CTV, which first reported accusations of sexual misconduct levied by two women.
Brown is seeking more than $8 million in damages from CTV, a division of Bell Media. The statement of claim also names several reporters and producers with the media organization.
On Jan. 24, CTV published an online article with allegations from two women that pertained to Brown's time as a Tory MP in Barrie. One of the women alleged that she was still in high school when Brown plied her with alcohol and attempted to coerce her to perform oral sex, details that would later change in subsequent CTV reports.
In the hours following the story's publication, Brown's inner staff circle quit and members of caucus encouraged him to step down as leader. Brown held a late news conference to deny the allegations that same night, and then resigned only hours after that.
Brown has since been removed from the PC caucus and sits as an Independent MPP in Simcoe North. He is not running for re-election in the coming provincial election.
He has consistently denied any wrongdoing, and has publicly criticized his accusers and CTV in social media posts. In a followup story published by CTV in February, the woman who initially said she was underage at the time of her alleged interaction with Brown revised her story, revealing she was in fact of age at the time.
An acquaintance of Brown who was allegedly present on the night of the incident in question also contradicted parts of the accuser's retelling of the allegations.
"The widespread and sensationalized broadcast and publication of the defamatory words delivered an almost immediate death blow to Mr. Brown's reputation and political career," the statement of claim reads. "Within hours, Mr. Brown was forced to resign as Leader of the ON PC Party, his rising political aspirations shattered."
The statement says polls suggested Brown was the "presumptive" next premier of Ontario before the allegations were published.
The legal notice says CTV and those named in the suit also broadcast the defamatory statements on television and in posts on Twitter and Facebook. The statement of claim also says CTV's actions amounted to the subversion of democracy in Ontario, given that they changed the trajectory of the province's politics before the June 7 election.
None of the allegations in Brown's statement of claim have been tested in court.
In an email statement to CBC Toronto, a CTV spokesperson said the outlet stands by its reporting and "will vigorously defend it in court."
Brown's resignation triggered a prolonged period of internal turmoil for the PCs as the party moved to replace him less than six months away from the election. In an emergency meeting of caucus following Brown's departure, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli was chosen as interim leader.
The party's executive meeting also opted to hold an open leadership contest that concluded with Doug Ford being elected leader as they prepare to take on Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and her Liberals.