Retired NHL player Eric Lindros filed a sports defamation lawsuit, in Canadian court, against referee-cum-columnist Paul Stewart. Lindros isn’t impressed with a post penned by Stewart for the Huffington Post, and former power forward wants $250,000 in compensation.
Is Canadian defamation law on Lindros’ side? What about U.S. libel law? Let’s discuss.
Why Lindros Is Suing An NHL Referee For Libel
Stewart penned an online missive for the Huffington Post entitled “Hecklers, Hooligans and the Striped-Shirted Maitre D”. In it, Stewart waxed poetic about life as an NHL ref — commercial break banter and fan friendships.
Stewart also served up some behind-the-scenes gossip and dished on a few players, including the Steve Francis of professional hockey, Eric Lindros. Unabashed in his disdain for the former Flyer, Stewart says:
Stewart goes on to recount:
Lindros’ Sports Defamation Lawsuit
Lindros swears that Stewart is telling stick stories. Most notably, Lindros contends that:
- He never cursed at Stewart during their first relayed encounter; and
- The incident with the posters never happened.
So, Lindros filed a libel lawsuit. At first, he asked for a few million dollars but has since lowered that figure to $250,000.
Can Lindros Win This Case?
Will Lindros win? In Canada, he may have a shot.
Currently, Canada has the most plaintiff-friendly libel laws in the English-speaking world. In several regards, Canadian defamation law is the opposite of U.S. defamation law. Unlike American slander and libel plaintiffs, Canadian claimants don’t have to prove falsity, damages or intent. Moreover, Canadian slander and libel law operates on a “reverse onus” standard, meaning it’s the defendant’s responsibility to prove the statement was either:
- Fair Comment or Criticism;
- Honest Reportage; or
- Innocent Dissemination.
In the Lindros sports defamation case, it may come down to whether or not Turk – the equipment manager who relayed the poster-ripping message — will testify to that fact. If he does, Stewart could emerge victorious in this case; if he doesn’t, Lindros, in theory, could win this sports defamation claim.
Would Lindros Win His Defamation Lawsuit In A U.S. Court?
What about in a U.S. court? Would Lindros’ chances be as good as they are in Canadian court? In a phrase: absolutely not.
Unlike Canadian slander and libel claimants, the majority of U.S. defamation plaintiffs must prove falsity, damages and some sort of negligence on the part of the defendant. Some American defamation plaintiffs don’t have to prove damages if the statements are deemed defamatory per se, meaning the communication is inherently damaging (i.e., calling someone a criminal). Though the majority of states do allow for defamatory per se claims, some don’t. To look up your states defamation laws, go here.
Since Stewart’s article appeared on Huffingtonpost.ca, Lindros also included Huffington Post, AOL Inc. and AOL Canada Inc. as defendants.
Further Reading And International Defamation Attorney Contact
Kelly / Warner has extensive experience with cross-border defamation lawsuits – particularly Internet defamation cases. In the past, we’ve successfully represented clients across the U.S. and Canada.
To speak with a sports defamation attorney, with international experience, get in touch with Kelly / Warner Law today.