Category Archives: Libel

Legal comment, news and articles relating to recent important developments and Canadian court decisions relating to Libel Law.

Libel of a Professional

Professionals such as doctors, lawyers and accountants succeed or not based on their reputation.  The firm was recently retained to consider whether a lawyer should sue for libel based on emails by the potential defendant to third parties which referred to the lawyer as “avaricious”.  Generally, the man in the street believes that statements denigrating the character and professional habits of a professional harm the professional’s reputation and as such are defamatory.  When the words are merely spoken, the wrong is characterized as a slander and the plaintiff must prove actual financial damage flowing from the slander.  When the words are written, the defamation constitutes a libel.  In libel, the law presumes damage (the actual amount being in the discretion of the court taking into account factors such as the presence of malice on the part of the defendant and the extent and manner of publication).  In some cases, the defendant may seek to invoke a variety of defences, including justification because the words were true, fair comment or qualified privilege.  In this case the defence of qualified privilege may have provided a legal excuse for the defendant, not in respect of the libelous words, but with respect to the occasion on which they were uttered.  If the defendant has a sufficient interest or duty to communicate to a person that has a corresponding interest or duty or to receive such communication, then the occasion may provide an excuse to the defendant even though the words are indeed defamatory.  There is no catalogue of occasions of qualified privilege; the categories cannot be closed in the nature of things.  Therefore, although it may be an easy matter to prove a libel, litigation over libel can be complex.