Fair Comment As A Defense For Business Defamation

A business in Canada won’t give up on a defamation lawsuit involving Salmon and an environmental activist.

Plaintiffs in a business defamation lawsuit aren’t giving up easily. Mainstream Canada, a salmon farming and fishing company, is filing an appeal in the British Columbia Supreme Court over a business defamation case recently dismissed against Don Staniford, a salmon environmentalist. A case that explores the  “fair comment” defense against defamation – the lawsuit is one every activist should know.

What Started This Business Defamation Lawsuit

This Canadian business defamation lawsuit started when Staniford, an active member of the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, created and distributed material that said “Salmon Farming Kills Like Smoking.” While it may sound like your average, albeit aggressive, environmental activist screed, Mainstream Canada decided to take the statement literally and filed a defamation lawsuit against the non-profit and Staniford. “Salmon farming is not nearly as dangerous as smoking” is their angle.

Why This Business Defamation Case Was Originally Dismissed: Fair Comment

The Mainstream Canada v. Staniford business defamation lawsuit was originally dismissed; which was a little shocking, since Canada has some of the most plaintiff friendly defamation laws in the English-speaking world. Nevertheless, “fair comment” has always been an acceptable defense in defamation cases, and Staniford and co. successfully argued the point.

Click Here To Read More About Canadian Defamation Laws

Fair comment is a defamation defense that still plays a major role in Commonwealth countries like Canada and the UK. In short, fair comment allows people to voice their opinion about matters of public interest. So long as the ultimate goal of the statement in question is not malicious, fair comment may be the thing that gets a defamation defendant off.

In this particular business defamation case, the judge ruled that while the statements in question were, technically, defamatory – even malicious – the “dominant purpose” of Staniford’s actions was not animosity. In other words, Staniford truly believes that Salmon farming is destructive and his ultimate goal was to save fish, not hurt Mainstream Canada.

If This Case Was Being Tried In The United States, Could The Fair Comment Defense Be Used

The Mainstream Canada v. Staniford defamation case is playing out in a British Columbia court. If you live in the states, you may be wondering if the case would unfold in the same way here. The simple answer is yes, the Staniford case would have probably been dismissed by an American court, too; but the reasons for the dismissal would be different.

Ever since the Supreme Court handed down the ruling in New Yorks Times Co. v. Sullivan, a standard of “actual malice” is applied in many defamation lawsuits – meaning the plaintiff must prove that the defendant purposefully lied with the intent to harm the movant. But more than that, Staniford’s fliers would most likely be seen as political agitprop – and therefore not libelous.

Do you need to speak with a business defamation lawyer? If yes, contact us today. We have years of defamation litigation experience and can work with you to resolve your situation as quickly as possible. Sometimes all it takes is a cease and desist defamation letter to make the problem disappear.

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