If you have been accused of defamation you may need to take immediate legal action. Defamation claims are typically expensive and time-consuming to pursue, but without prompt action you risk losing your case altogether or being ordered to pay the other side’s costs.
Defamation is the publication of a false statement which damages we charity someone’s reputation. It can be either verbal (slander) or written (libel). Defamation claims are usually brought against the person who has been defamed, not the person who published the statement. The claimant must show that the statement was false and caused them to suffer injury to their reputation. A court will consider a number of factors when deciding whether the statement was defamatory including its reach and the nature of the audience. It is also necessary to prove that the statement was made with knowledge of its falsity or reckless disregard for the truth.
If the statement is slanderous, it must be made to a reasonable person who understands that it is about them and their reputation. Similarly, libel must be based on fact and not merely opinion. There is no one set test as to what constitutes defamatory statements and the threshold for bringing a defamation claim is very high. However, a court will generally look at the overall tenor and context of a blog or article before it decides whether a particular statement is defamatory. This will include the use of figurative or hyperbolic language and how this compares with the reasonable expectations of the audience of the article.
A defamation claim can only be brought by the person who has been defamed and there is a statute of limitations which means you only have one year to bring a defamation claim. This is different from other types of claims which can be brought within six months of the date of the offence.
Theresa Kielburger’s defamation lawsuit against Canadaland and Jesse Brown centres on the news organization’s White Saviors podcast. Her lawsuit alleges that the podcast was “reckless, malicious, vicious, callous, reprehensible, shocking and oppressive” towards her.
If you are a public figure who is the subject of a defamation claim, it is harder to settle or win a case than if you were claiming against a private individual. This is because public figures have to meet a higher standard of proof and it can be difficult to prove that you published the defamatory statement with “actual malice,” which means that you knew it was wrong or you acted with reckless disregard for the truth. The Defamation Act makes it a criminal offence to defame a public figure and the statutory penalty is a fine or imprisonment. If you are a private individual, it is much easier to settle or win a defamation case and the penalties are less severe. In addition, it is possible to obtain non-legal remedies such as a retraction or apology which are often what the claimant wants most to clear their name.