Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blogging, Responsible Journalism and Damages for Libel

The wild, wild west of the Canadian blogging wilderness is clearly being tamed by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

In separate rulings issued in the past week, two well-known Canadian political bloggers have been found liable for defamation arising from posts on their blogs.

The November 18, 2010 ruling of Ontario Superior Court Justice Robert Smith in Giacamo Vigna v. Ezra Isaac Levant finds the Defendant, blogger and lawyer Ezra Levant, liable for damages in the sum of $25,000.00 for defamatory blog posts, and provides a thorough discussion of the law of libel, as it affects bloggers and journalists:
[140] The fact that Levant is a lawyer is an aggravating factor as he either knew or should have known that continued ridiculing of another lawyer using the internet, and accusing another lawyer of fibbing to the Tribunal, of acting with contempt and acting unethically before a Tribunal, without making a diligent inquiry to verify that his facts were accurate and true, and when he used the manner in which Vigna requested an adjournment in order to further his objective of denormalizing Human Rights Commissions was defamatory conduct. He also continued to republish the same inaccurate statements after he was given notice they were considered defamatory and he was asked to stop.
The Judgment is worthy of a careful read. Omar Ha-Redeye has a thorough analysis of the case at Slaw.

Similarly Mr. Justice Dennis Power's November 23, 2010 default endorsement in Robert Day v. Patrick Ross, while brief (as the action was undefended), leaves little room for doubt as to the courts' willingness to assess significant damages for defamation, where malice is proven:
... The Defendant's conduct detailed in the Statement of Claim and in this motion was clearly malicious. His conduct in this litigation was, as well, malicious.
In the Day case, initiated by the writer of the Canadian Cynic blog, damages of $75,000.00 were assessed against blogger Patrick Ross, together with costs of $10,000.00.

In both cases, the offending bloggers were also ordered to remove the impugned blog posts.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto
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1 comment:

CooperLegal said...

The principles applied toward the finding of defamation, in the context of a blog, were not particularly unique to this case; however, it will be interesting to see how assessments for damages in such situations will evolve with the case law. Indeed, the consideration of comments as a gauge of blog popularity is a somewhat unreliable factor. It seems likely that Canadian courts will evolve a more consistent and reliable framework for assessing defamatory damages arising out of blog postings.