SLANDER – IT’S SIMPLE AND IT’S NOT
You are in a room with your brother. No one else can hear what you’re saying. You say to him: you're a thief. Is that slander? The answer is no.
The most basic element of slander is extremely simple: it involves comments which the speaker cannot prove to be true – and which cause damage to someone’s reputation. If there are no witnesses, then it is not slander to call your brother a thief. For slander to occur, there must be a witness - someone who now thinks less of your brother because of what you said.
Where the law of slander gets complicated, however, is in the exceptions. Sometimes the Courts will not help the person who has been defamed. In other words, sometimes the person who makes or publishes a defamatory statement can “get away with it.” The British Columbia case of Dawydiuk v. ICBC [2010 BCCA 353] provides a recent example of one circumstance in which the slanderer almost got away with it.
In the Dawydiuk case, ICBC fired Ms. Dawydiuk. Internal documents prepared by her supervisor stated that Ms. Dawydiuk was fired for “inadequate performance,” “not re-hireable” and “unsatisfactory.” Under the law of slander, it is permissible to make such statements, even if false, where the defamatory statements are made by a person who has a legal duty to make the statements – if the statements are made to someone who has a corresponding legal duty to receive them. In other words, the person defamed cannot succeed in Court if internal documents prepared by a manager for the personnel department are slanderous. So, why did ICBC lose this case? Because the documents were sent not only to the personnel department but also to a person who had no legal duty to receive them.
As the Dawydiuk case illustrates, there are several defences to a lawsuit based on slander. The truth of the defamatory comments is one defence. So, is “qualified privilege” – illustrated by the the Dawydiuk case. There are also other defences – but some of them get extremely complicated.
Article provided by Centennial Law Corp.