Canadian Broadcasting Corporation v Whatcott 2016 SKCA 17

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Note

This recent decision from the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal overturns the Court of Queen's Bench findings of malice and of aggravated damages, and reduces the general damages award to a nominal amount of $1,000. The appeal regarding the meaning of the publication was dismissed based on the standard of review.

Decision Summary

The Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench granted summary judgment in favour of Whatcott in his defamation action against the CBC. The CBC appealed, asking that the judgment be set aside on the basis of certain errors of law and fact.

On the issue of the lower court judge's assessment of the quantum of general damages, the SKCA found that:

As there was no evidence before the judge as to the scope or extent of publication, he erred by unreasonably assessing the extent of publication...

And, on the issue of the awarding of aggravated damages, the SKCA found that:

...it was a reversible error for the judge to have found actual malice on the part of the CBC without any evidence to support that finding. I would set aside the finding of actual malice as unreasonable and borne of an error of law.

On the issue of the lower court's finding that the CBC defamed Whatcott, the SKCA held that this was not subject to appellate reversal:

While the defamatory nature of the news segment is open to some interpretation, I cannot conclude that the judge's interpretation of it as defamatory was either unreasonable or borne of an error of law.

References

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation v Whatcott 2016 SKCA 17

Whatcott v Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 2015 SKQB 7

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