British Columbia

'Dog' vs 'donkey': B.C. women take bizarre war of words to court

If there’s one element of Lower Mainland life likely to remain constant even after COVID-19, it’s the hatred between Jing Lu and Catherine Shen. For the past 15 years, the two women have engaged in an unrelenting, bizarre and seemingly inexplicable war of words.

Judge says women who barely knew each other saw 'mirror image' in a decade of online mudslinging

In a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit, the judge heard a litany of insults traded between two women including one calling the other a donkey. (Yiorgos GR / Shutterstock)

If there's one element of Lower Mainland life likely to remain constant even after COVID-19, it's the hatred that exists between Jing Lu and Catherine Shen.

For the past 15 years, the two women have engaged in an unrelenting, bizarre and seemingly inexplicable war of words.

They barely know one another in real life but have vowed to destroy each other online, hurling insults like "dog," "donkey" and "most famous loser."

Perhaps inevitably, the pair wound up suing and counter-suing each other. 

And now, after court proceedings that mystified a B.C. Supreme Court judge, Lu and Shen have effectively fought to a draw — with one winning $9,000 in damages while being ordered to pay $8,500 of it back to her sworn enemy.

"Both of these women, for reasons that remain largely a mystery, have demonstrated conduct that is flagrant and extreme. Indeed, much of it could be described as obsessive and bordering on the irrational," wrote Justice Elaine Adair.

"Each of them claims that the behaviour of the other has inflicted serious harm on her. However, neither recognizes that they are, in many respects, mirror images of one another."

'Too poor to buy a house'

Over the course of a 50-page decision released last week, Adair attempts to untangle and apply legal principles to a personal feud that dates back to 2005, when Lu and Shen met online while they were preparing to immigrate to Canada from China.

They both moved to B.C. but instead of striking an in-person friendship, the two began trading jabs on a pair of Chinese-Canadian social media forums called Canadameet and Ourdream.

Much of the case is spelled out in a series of affidavits, claims and counterclaims that the judge found didn't meet the basic requirements for court proceedings in that they were full of "argument, inadmissible opinion, conclusions (without the necessary facts being stated), conjecture, speculation, invective, insults and hearsay."

Jing Lu claimed Catherine Shen called her son's high school to verify his grades when he was admitted to Harvard. She then called Harvard with questions about his degree. (Charles Krupa/ Associated Press)

Lu was the first to sue. 

She claimed Shen accused her online of being "too poor to buy a house" and then started making derogatory comments about her son. When Lu's son was accepted to Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., she claimed Shen contacted his high school to verify the fact.

And when he graduated from the Ivy League school, Shen emailed Harvard to question the validity of his degree — writing: "Whoever lies will cause the death of his/her entire family. You are being fooled by the fraudster and running in circles."

Lu claimed she had to sell a cafe she owned after Shen took pictures of her serving customers and posted them online, claiming she was so poor she had to work in a restaurant.

'The most famous cheap woman of Shanghai'

But Shen responded to Lu's original lawsuit with a counterclaim.

"All what Jing Lu sued me (for) is what she did to me," Shen claimed.

She claimed Lu had lied and made up stories about her and her son for the past decade, putting up what she called "big face photos" to defame them.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge said the feud between Jing Lu and Catherine Shen bordered on the irrational. (David Horemans/CBC)

In October 2009, Shen claimed Lu accused her of wearing "loose sportswear making her look like an 'old aunt selling bus tickets.' "

She said her rival called her a homeless dog, accusing Shen of being an "uneducated woman without virtue" and suggesting that her son "should be chopped up and oil put on him."

Beyond what Adair identified as a lack of "logic" to the organization of the pleadings in front of her, the judge also said the two women could not sue for reputational injuries they claimed had been suffered by their sons.

Adair said that a statute of limitations also meant that many of the allegations fell outside the time frame set by the courts.

But she did ultimately conclude that each of the women had been defamed: Lu for being called "a liar, a slut and a bitch, and someone who deceives and swindles others" and Shen for being called "the most famous cheap woman of Shanghai."

'Each woman feels bullied'

But how to assess damages?

The judge said neither had provided evidence of widespread reputational damage. And when it came right down to it, why would anyone else pay attention to these warring women?

"It is difficult to imagine that anyone, apart from Ms. Lu and Ms. Shen themselves, cares whether Ms. Lu is right or Ms. Shen is right, or cares about Ms. Lu's and Ms. Shen's opinions about one another," Adair wrote.

"However, based on the evidence I have before me, I find that each woman feels bullied, abused and harassed by the other."

Adair ordered each of the women to pay one other $5,000 as a nominal amount for general damages.

She also found they had breached each other's privacy, but that Shen's behaviour was slightly more egregious because she kept posting insults to the forum even after Lu had filed the initial notice of civil claim.

For that reason, Adair awarded Lu $4,000 and Shen $3,500.

A slight victory for Lu. 

And possible grounds for a new conflict between them.

About the Author

Jason Proctor

@proctor_jason

Jason Proctor is a reporter in British Columbia for CBC News and has covered the B.C. courts and mental health issues in the justice system extensively.

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