'Nasty' Facebook comments cost B.C. woman $30K in defamation suit | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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'Nasty' Facebook comments cost B.C. woman $30K in defamation suit

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March 16, 2021 - 6:30 AM

A B.C. woman has won a defamation case and a sizable award in B.C. Supreme Court after numerous unfounded allegations against her were posted to Facebook and other printed sources.

While social media is rife with keyboard warriors and harsh accusations are spewed out daily on often the most innocuous of subject matters, this case serves as a reminder that what a person posts on a local community Facebook page can land them in serious trouble and be very costly.

In this case, the harsh, unfounded, and derogatory comments cost the perpetrator $30,000.

What is also striking about is the case is that the allegations weren’t seen by very many people, but the Justice still awarded a considerable amount of compensation citing the harm caused and how gossip spread quickly in the small community.

According to a recently published B.C. Supreme Court decision, the case centres around two relatives, Kimberley Marion and Charmaine Louie, both in their mid-40s and both serving on the board of directors for the Tahltan Central Government in Northern B.C.

The decision says Louie wrote several letters to the Tahltan board making defamatory statements about Marion, as well as posting similar comments on Facebook. Text messages also form some of the evidence and Marion claims a letter about her was published in the community, although admits she couldn’t prove the publication of the letter.

While the women share the same grandparents, Marion is a member of the Iskut First Nation and Louie is a member of the Tahltan First Nation.

In the decision, Justice Michael Tammen highlights what he calls the eight most "egregious" allegations ranging from bullying to violence to sexual assault — none of which were proven true and were defamatory.

The Justice quickly concluded the comments were defamatory saying they would lower Marion's "reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person" and that they were published to multiple people.

"The letter reads like a broad attempt to besmirch the character of Ms. Marion," Justice Tammen said in the decision. "Louie showed reckless disregard for the truth... some of the complaints are incapable of proof. Others are equally incapable of meaningful rebuttal, so they merely hang in the air like a bad smell."

According to the decision, the barrage of insults comes against the backdrop of another civil case involving many of the same allegations and counter-allegations of sexual assault.

Marion said after this case was launched, Louie started a campaign of defamatory comments against her.

In May 2019, Louie wrote to the Tahltan board accusing Marion of being a "dysfunctional" hockey manager for the Tahltan Selects.

"She wants to pretend she supports the Tahltan youth, but then she benches them (so) she can win gold using our strong Hazelton players," the letter read.

While early comments relate to minor hockey, the allegations quickly move to far more serious and darker unproven accusations.

Louie couldn't rely on any legal defences such as truth or 'qualified privilege', the justice said.

"The information communicated must be reasonably appropriate in the context of the circumstances existing on the occasion when that information was given," the decision reads.

Justice Tammen easily finds Louie's letters are not protected by qualified privilege.

"Ms. Louie was motivated by a desire to influence the other litigation by making these allegations against Ms. Marion. That ulterior motive or purpose qualifies as malice," he said.

The decision says Louie was given the opportunity to retract the statements and apologize and she'd done neither.

Without any of the usual lengthy legal analysis, the Justice picked a number.

"I find that an appropriate award of general damages is $20,000," he said.

Unlike the content of the letters, posts made to Facebook weren't presented to the court, although surprisingly this appears to have made little difference.

"Although there is no evidence of the precise contents of Facebook postings made by Ms. Louie on the (Tahltan) Facebook page, there is evidence that she has posted disparaging comments about Ms. Marion on that page," Justice Tammen said. "There is evidence that right up to (the) trial, despite the cease-and-desist letter and filing of this action, Ms. Louie has continued to post things online about Ms. Marion which at least one member of the community labels 'derogatory.'"

But the justice wasn't done — he awarded another $10,000 in aggravated damages.

Ultimately, Marion was awarded a total of $30,000 in damages.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

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