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To protect and vindicate a person’s reputation in the face of a defamation claim can prove a challenge. Having the best lawyers at your side is essential.

Politicians, professional contractors, small businesses, corporations, and journalists are a few of the parties most likely to be involved in a defamation case. This is because each of these parties relies on having a strong and reputable name in their professional and/or personal lives. They are more likely to have statements made about them that can detract from their positive reputation and devastate their name.

Cases of defamation have increased significantly alongside the use of social media and similar digital platforms. It is easier than ever to make and publish defamatory statements with everyone granted seemingly an instant opportunity at any given moment to do so.

If you have been the target of untrue public statements, consult with a lawyer experienced in defamation law.

At Joshua Goldberg Law, we can help. The faster you act, the quicker you can start to rebuild after a defamatory statement has been made.

Overview Of Defamation Law In Toronto

Defamation can be defined as occurring when one party makes a statement that is untrue about another party. This can occur orally or in writing. Defamation claims are often pursued by victims wherein their personal or business reputation has been damaged.

Whether you are the party defamed or are being accused of defamation, navigating defamation litigation is complex.

Elements Of Defamation: Understanding Libel And Slander

When you make a defamatory statement, it has the ability to damage a person’s reputation. A defamatory statement can either be written or spoken. This is how libel and slander are defined.

  • Libel, or a libelous statement, is defamation that is in writing or printed words. It can also be made through a picture, film, audio recording, or similar medium.

  • Slander, or a slanderous statement, is done by spoken word but can also be a gesture or a sign.

When handling a defamation claim in court, it is governed by common law principles and legislation such as the Ontario Libel and Slander Act.

Canada is considered to be a plaintiff-friendly defamation jurisdiction. It is easier in Canada to establish defamation than it is in jurisdictions such as the United States, however, the damages are much smaller in Canada compared to elsewhere.

Evaluating The Harm: Assessing Damages In Defamation Cases

While with libel, the evidence is readily available to be proven as defamation, with slander, it is not and therefore more difficult to prove.

In most cases, to prove slander, proof of special damage is required. This means there is some form of material loss relating to the defamatory statement. If there is no material loss and the consequences of slander are purely hurt feelings or a loss of reputation, slander is exceptionally difficult to litigate.

Exceptions for requiring special damages exist. If you are accusing someone of committing a crime, accusing a woman of being unchaste, accusing someone of having a loathsome disease, or accusing someone of being unfit to practice their profession, these are all situations where material loss is not essential to proving defamation.

Ultimately, one must evaluate the precise harm a defamatory statement has made and what sort of compensation should be provided in response.

The Legal Landscape: Navigating Defamation Claims In Court

In court, defamation claims are either split into libel or slander. As stated, with libel, it’s not uncommon for such defamatory statements to be spread across social media, cited in newspaper articles, or published publicly on multiple platforms.

With libel, there is a permanent record of statements made. They have a longer impact over time than an oral statement. Libel is considered by the courts to be more harmful and how you navigate a libel defamation claim is by establishing that a false statement was made about you to a third party.

As mentioned above, proving slander requires a lot more navigating and effort.

Role Of A Defamation Lawyer: Expertise And Responsibilities

The role of a defamation lawyer is, in part, to manage the crisis of a defamation statement and to minimize its impact.

From there, it is your lawyer’s duty to prove defamation. This is challenging to do as the scope and impact of harm may be difficult to quantify, the identify of the person who has made the defamatory statements may not be known, limitation periods for bringing forth a claim of defamation may have passed, and there may be questions around freedom of expression and fundamental rights that your lawyer must defend against.

Your lawyer must have the experience and knowledge to successfully file a claim and navigate around these challenges.

Challenges In Proving Defamatory Statements

Just because a statement is offensive to a person does not make it defamatory. When litigating defamatory statements, the opinion of the victim does not factor in. A statement must be proven to be objectively defamatory and, to do that, the following criteria is what is used in a court of law.

  • A statement is defamatory is if it considered to be defamatory by an average member of one’s community.

  • A defamatory statement does not need to have been made maliciously.

  • If a statement can be proven to be true, it is not defamatory and is instead simply considered objective truth.

  • A false statement that is not true but which does not cause harm is not defamatory.

  • A mistaken statement does not constitute defamation.

  • A defamatory statement must have been communicated to or made in the presence of a third party who understands it.

Defense Strategies In Defamation Litigation

There are many ways to defend against defamation litigation. A primary way to do so is to prove the statement accused of being defamatory as true.

If this proves excessively difficult to do, there are other defense strategies that can be relied upon. The defamation lawyer that you hire should be experienced in defense strategies. If you are wrongfully being accused of defamation, a lawyer from our firm will work with you and suggest what strategy is best to move forward with.

The Importance Of Protecting One’s Reputation

Why defamation is such a serious crime to many people is because false statements create reputational damage.

Whether you are a small business, a professional, a public figure, or even an everyday person, we all invest our time, resources, and effort into maintaining a positive reputation among our peers. The quality of one’s reputation management skills has a direct impact on a person or corporation’s ability to make income. This effort to protect one’s reputation is put in jeopardy when false statements are made.

It is difficult to quantify the scope and lasting harm that defamatory statements can cause to one’s reputation.

 Absolute Privilege And Other Legal Defenses

As a defendant, the responsibility of their legal representation is to launch a defense often based on concepts such as truth or justification, absolute privilege, qualified privilege, or fair comment.

Absolute privilege is often brought before the courts in response to defamation. It refers to where someone receives absolute immunity from defamation on account of the occasion of the statement, such as if it’s made in court or legislature.

A similar concept is qualified privilege which is where a person acts under a legal, moral, or social obligation to communicate the impugned information to a person who has a corresponding duty or interest in the communication, such as submitting a complaint to a regulatory body.

 Media’s Role And Responsibilities In Defamation Cases

The media’s role and responsibilities in defamation cases is often where some of the most complex litigation in this category occurs.

The courts seek to protect the media and ensure they are allowed to report truthfully on matters of public interest without risk of being accused of making defamatory statements. In this vein, you have the legal concepts of ‘fair comment’ and ‘responsible communication’.

  • Fair comment is when words are the expressions of an opinion on a matter of public interest.

  • If you’re a journalist, you also have a defense of responsible communication which reinforces the responsibility of fair and responsible reports on issues of public interest.

Where these defenses can be defeated, however, is where there is clear false statements being made, malice, or ill-will proven.

 Seeking Justice: The Plaintiff’s Path In Defamation Actions

The earliest action of a plaintiff is often to seek an injunction to have defamatory material removed from publication or posting.

After the impact of the defamatory statement is limited, the next step on a path to justice is to recover monetary damages and ensure the defamatory action is not allowed to be repeated or to continue. With regards to damages, among what is asked for are general damages, special damages, and punitive damages.

You may also be tasked with defeating an anti-SLAPP motion, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. This refers to defamation claims that limit debate and expression. If a defendant brings forth an anti-SLAPP motion, there will be more hurdles to navigate in your path toward winning on a defamation claim.

Should a defendant bring forth and win an anti-SLAPP motion, they are awarded 100% of their legal costs for the lawsuit. If they lose an anti-SLAPP motion, they will not be ordered to pay any of the plaintiff’s legal costs for that motion. For defendants in a defamation lawsuit, anti-SLAPP motions prove to be a useful and somewhat unfortunately common tool that a plaintiff may have to navigate very carefully.

As defamation lawsuits can take time to resolve once they make it to court, all parties involved likely have the incentive to sit down and negotiate a resolution by way of a settlement to avoid a trial.

 The Impact Of Defamation On Businesses And Individuals

Most businesses rely heavily on their reputation attracting and keeping customers. Just like an individual, a corporation can be defamed, resulting in economic losses and permanent damage to that business’ ability to operate.

It is worth noting that, from a small business perspective, defamation can involve public statements made on the internet that are malicious or reckless, left to remain indefinitely, and that can cause long-term harm to a corporation.

To protect your reputation in the face of defamation, any individual or corporation has to take action.

 Future Outlook: Evolving Trends In Defamation Law

With how electronic and Internet-based communication has progressed, defamation law has only become more complex over time.

A primary issue in many defamation cases today is when the defendant is located in another jurisdiction, whether a plaintiff has the right to file a defamation lawsuit in Canada’s court system. If the defamatory material is downloaded or read in Canada, in general, a defamation claim can be filed against a defendant in a foreign jurisdiction.

In many provinces, when it is media being accused of defamation, there are stricter notice requirements and a shorter limitation period.

The rise of non-traditional media and electronic publications has also challenged the scope of defamation actions and touches upon issues, such as source protection, public access to and reporting on the court system, and publication bans.

Needless to say, defamation, libel, and slander have only become more complicated to litigate in recent years.

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