With a judge and jurors poised to hear her $9-million libel suit against the National Post, Canadian rock singer Alannah Myles abruptly changed her tune yesterday and agreed to a settlement out of court.
Jury selection was about to start at the Toronto courthouse when a flurry of cellphone calls began between lawyers for Ms. Myles and for the Post, publisher Donald Babick and owner Southam Inc.
The Juno and Grammy award-winner, whose recordings sold eight million copies during her heyday in the late eighties and early nineties, sued the Post just months after the newspaper's launch because of a scathing article by reporter Finbarr O'Reilly.
In his Dec. 22, 1998, article titled The Best and Worst of Alannah Myles, Mr. O'Reilly was critical of Ms. Myles's music and personality, and reported that there had been rumours she used cocaine.
Ms. Myles claimed the article defamed her reputation in the community and around the world.
The singer was "greatly injured in her character, credit and reputation and has been held up to public scandal, ridicule and contempt," her statement of claim said. She sought $5-million in general damages, $4-million in punitive damages, and her legal costs.
The Post denied the article defamed Ms. Myles and said the comments in the article were "true in substance and in fact and insofar as they consist of expressions of opinion, they are fair comment made in good faith and without malice on a matter of public interest."
It also pointed out in its statement of defence that it had run an apology and clarification shortly after Mr. O'Reilly's article appeared, in which it apologized for a number of assertions. The clarification included a statement from Ms. Myles that said she has not taken cocaine and that anyone in her organization who does would be dismissed.
No details of the deal were reported yesterday.
Ms. Myles's lawyer, Kevin Kemp, told reporters who waited for five hours outside the conference rooms where the two sides conducted shuttle negotiations that the matter had been settled.
"The action of Ms. Myles against the National Post and the other defendants has been resolved to the satisfaction of all parties," a beaming Mr. Kemp said.
While Ms. Myles stood smiling ruefully at his side, Mr. Kemp declined to comment any further.
The singer refused to speak to reporters, but agreed to be photographed.
Lawyers for the defendants -- Mr. O'Reilly, the Post, editor Kenneth Whyte, Mr. Babick and Southam Inc. -- refused to make any comment to reporters.