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Entrepreneurs

Mocked Dragon's Den contestant has no grounds to complain, court rules Add to ...

The dragons can keep breathing fire.

The Ontario Court of Appeal has dismissed a case brought by a contestant on the popular CBC television show Dragon's Den, saying the would-be entrepreneur has no grounds to complain about the mocking he received for his business pitch on the show.

Perennial political candidate and activist John Turmel launched the lawsuit last year after the CBC broadcast a brief segment showing the show's business panelists harshly criticizing his business proposal. Mr. Turmel was seeking $100,000 to start a program to use poker chips from a local casino as currency at local businesses in Brantford, Ont.

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The high-profile business executives told him they didn't understand what he was talking about, with CBC personality Kevin O'Leary suggesting he should "burst into flames" and entrepreneur Jim Treliving suggesting he was "blowing air up a dead horse's ass."

He did not receive the investment he sought.

Mr. Turmel launched a defamation suit against the show, complaining about the offensive comments and suggesting at a hearing that the program did not fairly represent his full pitch.

The Ontario Superior Court ruled last year that Mr. Turmel signed a consent and release form that gave the CBC the right to air any portion of his pitch, or none at all. The consent form says "anything that is discussed on camera can be broadcast on the show" and even warns contestants "a pitch may take on a life of its own -- anything goes."

"While Mr. Turmel may view the editing of the segment which was broadcast by the CBC as unconscionable, there is nothing unconscionable about the consent which he signed," Mr. Justice Thomas Lofchik ruled in his decision.

He said Mr. Turmel had time to read and sign the consent form, and did not ask any questions or raise any concerns at the time.

"He made a calculated decision to sign the contract in order to participate in a taping and receive the opportunity to ask the Dragons for a $100,000 investment in his proposal," the judge wrote. "He received what he expected."

The court also said Mr. Turmel failed to notify the CBC within six weeks of his complaint and intent to sue, as required under the Libel and Slander Act in Ontario.

The Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the ruling in a decision released Thursday, saying Mr. Turmel voluntarily went on the show and signed the consent form, so there are no grounds for appeal.

While the ruling makes no comment on the rights of panelists to criticize participants on the show, it does uphold the validity of the CBC's consent agreements as a protection against legal action.

CBC spokesman Jeff Keay said Thursday the broadcaster is "pleased with the court's decision," but said he had no further comment on the ruling, except that "we look forward to another exciting season of one of the country's most popular programs."

Mr. Turmel, who lives in Brantford and has previously described his occupation as "professional gambler," was cited by The Guinness Book of World Records for holding the record for running in the most elections, and losing the most elections. According to his website, he has run 74 times in municipal, provincial and federal elections.

Mr. Turmel said he will seek leave to appeal Thursday's decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, arguing the editing of the program was defamatory because it did not properly represent his business pitch.

In an interview Friday, he said he objects to the fact he was given the contract to sign just 15 minutes before going on air, and believes it is unfair that the consent form required him to agree he could not sue the CBC. He also said the consent form should not include a clause saying he could be portrayed in a way that is "defamatory," arguing it is unfair to require someone to consent to a potentially illegal act.

 

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