protecting your reputation

If you have ever had someone write or say something about you that was untrue, chances are that you have thought about the tort of defamation.  Defamation is a civil tort regarding unjustified harm to a person’s reputation. It occurs when a person has made a statement that harms a person’s reputation.

There are two types of defamation: libel and slander. Defamation is libel if there is a written or recorded statement. This may include statements on social media, newspapers, letters or emails, or other TV or radio media. Defamation is slander if there is no record and is often verbal or spoken statements.

Unlike a claim for damages in libel, to claim damages for slander, you must show you suffered financial loss unless the statement:

  • Accuses you of a crime and is communicated to someone other than police;
  • Accuses you of having a contagious disease;
  • Accuses you of adultery, or;
  • Makes negative remarks about you in your work or business.

If you sue someone for defamation, the claim must be made in Supreme Court as the Provincial Court has no jurisdiction. To be successful, a plaintiff must prove that communication or statement:

  • was defamatory (would harm the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person);
  • referred to the plaintiff;
  • was made to at least one other person (to someone other than the plaintiff).

There are various defences to defamation, including absolute or qualified privilege, fair comment, and innocent dissemination. However, the applicability of defences to a claim of defamation is very fact specific.

Before commencing or responding to an action, it is advantageous to speak with lawyer about your options in filing a claim and possible defences.  Sometimes, an apology or a cease-and-desist letter can resolve the issues.  Other times it is necessary to file a claim and seek damages.  


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