Sisters Sue Manager for Libel

Last year, sisters Gina and Tina Zanetti--tenants of The Surfside at 1395 Beach Avenue--sued their property-management company, Bonniehon Management Inc., the building manager, Paul H. Cody, and the assistant building manager, Andrew James Baillargeon.

The tenants have alleged the defendants defamed them in letters sent to the residential tenancy branch in 2001 and to the Vancouver police department in 2002. The defendants have denied the allegations.

The Zanettis have also alleged that Cody was president of a New York City real-estate company in the 1960s. They claimed Cody moved into their building in 1987 following a negative U.S. tax ruling and acted as though he owned The Surfside.

Cody was unavailable for comment. Last month, Cody swore an affidavit alleging that a "government official" arrived at his suite on June 25 and issued an "Exclusion Order" against him.

Cody, the long-time resident manager, claimed in the affidavit that he left for the United States on June 30, 2003. He also claimed that his application to return to Canada has not been processed.

"But for the sudden appearance by a government official on June 25, 2003 and the exclusion order, I would be in Canada now and fully participating in the defence of this litigation," Cody stated.

Susan Wong, president of Bonniehon Management, claimed in an October 29 affidavit that Cody is still employed as The Surfside's resident manager, even though he doesn't live in Vancouver. The defendants' lawyer, Lana Li, did not return a call from the Straight.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokesperson Denny Falls confirmed to the Straight that an exclusion order was issued against Cody.

On October 17, Gina Zanetti swore an affidavit alleging that Cody is the same Paul H. Cody identified in a May 22, 1969, New York Times article as the president of World Resorts Limited. She included a copy of a 1996 U.S. District Court tax notice against a Paul H. Cody, issued in Boston, citing an "unpaid balance" of $59,178.37.

The Straight reported two years ago that the Zanetti sisters had convinced a residential tenancy branch arbitrator to set aside an eviction notice. Bonniehon management had alleged that the Zanettis threw rocks at Cody, which the Zanettis vehemently denied.

On October 21, 2000, Cody wrote a letter to the Zanettis claiming that they had made "several serious, false, malicious and slanderous" statements to him. According to the letter, submitted to the B.C. Supreme Court, these included:

* "I am a criminal from the U.S."

* "I fled the U.S. to Canada over 13 years ago due to some criminal matter pending."

* "My real name is not Paul H. Cody but possibly an alias."

"As you very well know, none of the above allegations are true," Cody wrote in the letter.

He also authorized the Zanettis to communicate directly with the FBI in Washington, D.C., to determine if he had ever been arrested or convicted in the United States.

Earlier this month, the Zanettis told the Straight that several court orders have made it more difficult to advance their legal claims. For example, in August 2002, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Edwards struck the Zanettis' claims for breach of the tenancy agreement, obstruction of justice, and breach of the Privacy Act.

Last April, the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed the Zanettis' appeal of Edwards's ruling and their subsequent application to introduce "fresh evidence"--the letter that the property-management company sent to the police. Tina Zanetti told the Straight that Bonniehon sent the letter to police the day after it was served with the lawsuit.

On June 6, 2003, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes dismissed the Zanettis' application to obtain more information from the defendants. Holmes ruled there was "absolutely nothing in the suggest there was any type of bad faith" in the defendants' failure to disclose the letter until after the Edwards ruling.

Holmes also concluded there was "an entirely inadequate evidentiary basis" for the Zanettis' belief that Cody's legal status was "relevant to their contention that he had a motive to fabricate allegations".

On October 21, B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Brenner ordered the Zanettis to post $15,000 within 30 days for a jury trial or their lawsuit would be dismissed. Tina Zanetti told the Straight that Brenner issued this order after the defendants' lawyer, Li, had only requested a $10,000 deposit.

Zanetti said she will apply to the court to vary the order and extend the deadline. The trial is scheduled to proceed in May 2004.