The Court Awards $125,000 to the Plaintiff for Internet Defamation

In the recent decision of Cyr v. LeBlanc, 2022 ONSC 2555, the Superior Court of Justice awarded $125,000 to the plaintiff in an internet defamation lawsuit. The defendant had published certain statements about the plaintiff on several websites. The statements called the plaintiff a racist among others.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for defamation. The Court defined a defamatory statement as:

A defamatory statement is one that has a tendency to lower the reputation of the person to whom it refers in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally, and in particular to cause him or her to be regarded with feelings of hatred, contempt, ridicule, fear, dislike or disesteem. …  There is no requirement to show the defendant intended to do harm, or even that the defendant was careless. The tort is one of strict liability.

To succeed in a lawsuit for defamation, the plaintiff must prove:

a)   the impugned words were defamatory, in the sense they would tend to lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person;

b)   the words referred to the plaintiff; and

c)   the words were published, meaning communicated to at least one person other than the plaintiff.

The defendant did not defend the lawsuit. The plaintiff moved for default judgment. The court found that the statements made by the defendant were defamatory and caused difficulty for the plaintiff in the community.  The court recognized the universality of internet and the potential for widespread communication and harm: “The internet is used frequently by prospective employers to screen potential employees. The impact may never be known.”

The court ordered the defendant to remove the postings containing the defamatory words and ordered that she shall not publish, disseminate or broadcast the defamatory words. The court awarded the plaintiff $75,000 for general damages; $25,000 for punitive damages; and $25,000 for aggravated damages.

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Ben enjoys the complexities of personal injury litigation and finds the cases that require creative thinking the most gratifying. His practice is exclusively devoted to representing clients with brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and severe orthopaedic injuries.

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