When Libel And Slander Hurts You
For many Canadians, they have had to work hard to build a trusted reputation. Their name becomes synonymous with their business and directly impacts their ongoing success. When someone makes false statements about a business or an individual, either verbally (i.e. on television) or in writing (i.e. in a newspaper), such statements often devastate a business’ goodwill and reputation. In the digital age, the proliferation and global reach of social media means that defamatory statements are more common than ever. Although reputations may take a lifetime to build, defamatory statements frequently cause permanent damage in an instant. On the other side of the publishing divide, media companies are under increasing pressure to publish accurate content in an effort to avoid attracting liability. The libel and slander lawyers at Kahane Law Office’s Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta offices help clients hurt by the word and statements of others.
What Is Defamation?
Defamation is defined as untrue written or verbal statements that have the ability to damage a person’s reputation. This distinction is less important to libel and slander lawyers, than the content in questions. However, there are two types of defamation: libel and slander.
Libel includes written, printed or untrue statements made in any public broadcast, such as radio, television and films. A requirement exists that a potentially libel statement reaches a third party. However, such statements need not reach a large audience.
Slander inlcudes untrue statements made verbally. Mere name calling often lacks qualification as defamation. The courts distinguish between comments that with intent as personal insults, and an insult that damages an individual’s reputation in the community. In doing so, the courts assess the tone of voice, intent of the speaker and manner of the conversation.
Are All False Statements Defamatory?
Not all remarks are defamatory. In order to prove slander, the untrue statement must be heard by a third party, regardless of whether the third party heard it accidentally or on purpose. If the untrue remark was made only to you without a third party overhearing, it does not constitute defamation. However, if an individual took reasonable steps to ensure that his or her comments were not overheard, such statements may not constitute defamation. Libel and slander lawyers help distinguish these situations to protect those speaking the truth about another person.
Does Slander Need Focus At A Specific Individual?
Derogatory statements must include a specific focus at one person or a relatively small group of people. If the statement targets a large group of people, it does not constitute slander. For example, the statement “all doctors are quacks” would not constitute slander. However, if the comment was that “the doctors in the Alberta College and Association of Chiropractors are quacks”, this may be slanderous since. The rational is that the comment made impacts a select group of individuals.
Further, if the comment was made in a way that a reasonable person would know unquestionably who it was directed at, then even if no names were mentioned, it could be considered defamatory.
Does Libel Have To Be Intentional?
No, even if an individual does not intend to commit defamation, his or her statements may be libel. If an individual communicates a written statement that he or she thought was true but it turns out to be untrue, the individual may be liable for reputational harm.
It is important to note that every person participating in creating and distributing the libel statement is subject to liability. For example, this includes the author, printer, publisher, editor and artist. However, in most cases, libel and slander lawyers start the law suit against both the author and publisher.
What Are The Defenses To Defamation?
There are various defenses to a defamation suit. libel and slander lawyers look at all avenues when representing the person making a statement or those whom the statement was about. For example, these defenses include the truth, privilege, and fair comment.
If the defendant proves that each and every word of his or her statement is true, he or she avoids liable. However, proving the truthfulness of a statement may be difficult. For example, if the defendant calls the defamed party various negative names, the burden of proof rests with that person to show the truth in each word in order to use this form of defense.
Select groups have a privilege, called qualified privilege. this privilege allows them to make slanderous comments under specific circumstances without liability for defamation. Qualified privilege applies in certain situations where immunity from defamatory statements is in the interest of society. For example, Members of Parliament possess qualified privilege when making statements in the House of Commons and Legislatures. Further, an individual speaking during court proceedings cannot be sued for defamation if such statements are relevant to the matter. Further, media outlets that cover public and government meetings are subject to qualified privilege. In this case, protection only exists if the statements are accurate, fair and not malicious.
Everyone enjoys an entitlement to make statements about public figures or events. This is true even if such comments are harmful, so long as they are fair. For example, authors are able to critique literature, art, sports or drama without impunity. However this protection only exists if the intention lacks any deliberate attempt to injure someone’s reputation. In order to employ the defence of fair comment, the defendant must prove that, as evidenced by the words used and the context, the statements were clearly not intended as facts, but as comments.
While apologies lack the legal test to form a complete defence on its own, courts view apologies as a mitigating factor. At times a court then lowers the amount of damages awarded to the defamed party.
Can Defamatory Libel Be A Criminal Offence?
Yes. These statements and publications may contain content that breaches the Criminal Code of Canada. Apart from being a civil wrong, defamatory libel can also be a criminal offence. This occurs if the statement published incites hatred, contempt or ridicule of a person and the intention is to insult the individual without any justification. In these instances, someone charged needs a criminal lawyer and not libel and slander lawyers.
Is Establishing Defamation Difficult For Libel And Slander Lawyers?
Yes, in all defamation suits, the plaintiff must establish and quantify the damages he or she suffered.
For cases of libel, in determining a damages award, the courts consider the extent of publication of the defamatory statement. In addition, they look at how it impacted the defamed person’s reputation. Further, if proven that the defamed individual lost profits as a result of the defamation, the courts often award special or pecuniary damages. These damages include a direct link to the loss suffered.
On the other hand, in cases of slander, in order to be awarded damages, the plaintiff must prove a pecuniary loss. Some exceptions exist where no requirement exists to prove financial loss. Such exceptions include defamatory statements about specific type of topics. For example, these include situations where the defamed party accuses someone as an adulterer, having a contagious disease, or involves harmful comments to one’s occupation.
Libel And Slander Lawyers Assistance With Defamation
If you feel that untrue verbal or written statements were made against you, you are entitled to sue the statement maker for financial losses you have suffered as a result. However, lawsuits take significant time and expense. This is true for plaintiffs and defendants. Therefore, our lawyers help you consider the amount of evidence and financial loss suffered. This then lets you ascertain if commencing an action makes sense. The civil litigation group at Kahane Law office help those who want to pursue a defamation case. Alternatively we help those people sued for defamation. You may reach us at 403-225-8810 or email us directly here.