09/26/2014 06:01 EDT | Updated 11/26/2014 05:59 EST

TTC 'Leprechaun' spurs outrage, legal questions

A nasty confrontation between two TTC passengers and the viral post it spawned are raising questions about shaming on social media. 

A ride on a crowded 72 Pape bus turned ugly for Brenda Davie of Toronto when an unidentified man — since dubbed the “Leprechaun” for his green attire and bowler hat — refused to move his bag so she could sit down. 

Davie, describing the incident on Facebook, claimed the man called her an “airhead” and, as things escalated, stomped on her foot. She also claims he pushed her “backwards into a pile of people.” She also posted photos of the man.

A video shot by another passenger captured part of the confrontation, but not the alleged assault. 

“I'm glad your bag is comfortable,” Davie can be heard saying at one point. 

The man, waving his hand dismissively, responds with: “La la, you get nothing. Pay attention.” 

Legal issues 

Her post was viewed thousands of times in just hours, fuelling much anger. Some took it upon themselves to try to identify the man. By Friday afternoon, someone had created the mock Twitter feed @TTCLeprechaun.

But a lawyer who specializes in social media says the reaction raises certain legal issues. 

“It's one thing to post a picture on social media,” Julia Lefebvre told CBC News. “Clearly it's documenting what happened — as far as we know it's not an altered picture — but it's another thing to post comments that go with it. Are you opening yourself up to a defamation action? Potentially.”

The man “clearly is being vilified in the media for this,” said Lefebvre.

A number of social media sites and hashtags call out bad behaviour on public transit, including two Tumblr blogs aimed at men who sprawl across seats, and the hashtag #subwayshaming.

The TTC says it has been unable to find security footage of the incident, though spokesman Brad Ross condemned the man’s behaviour. 

“Bags do not belong on seats. Seats are for people. Bags don't pay fares, people do,” Ross said.