While a construction company had a “serious and meritorious claim” against the Globe and Mail, its libel lawsuit against the Canadian newspaper was thrown out because the paper’s reporting was fair comment, the Globe reported itself.
The construction company, Bondfield Construction Co. Ltd., sued over 2015 and 2016 articles that “revealed links between that company’s president and a senior executive at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto,” who had “been complicit in a financial fraud when he was employed by Infrastructure Ontario,” the Globe and Mail explained.
iMediaEthics contacted the Globe and Mail to ask about the lawsuit’s dismissal; editor-in-chief David Walmsley said, “We have nothing to add.”
Bondfield pointed iMediaEthics to its March 29 press release which touted the ruling judge’s comments calling the lawsuit of “substantial merit” and of “significant public interest.” The Bondfield press release adds, “Bondfield is disappointed its action was dismissed, and intends to appeal the decision. It is however heartened that the judge recognized the strength of its action in the Globe, and how irresponsibly the Globe acted in its reporting on the Articles.”
The Globe and Mail got the lawsuit dismissed under a 2015 anti-SLAPP law. SLAPP laws refer to strategic lawsuits against public participation. “SLAPPs are used to silence and harass critics by forcing them to spend money to defend these baseless suits,” explains Anti-Slapp.org, the website for the Public Participation Project, which advocates for U.S. federal anti-SLAPP laws.
While Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Morgan did dismiss the case, he wrote in his ruling that “In requiring an otherwise serious and meritorious claim to be dismissed because at this stage a potential defence cannot be eliminated,” allowing the Globe a victory.
According to the Globe‘s news story on the verdict,
“Under the anti-SLAPP law, Bondfield had a relatively high burden, Justice Morgan said, to show why its suit should continue when the stories that were the subject of the lawsuit touched on the public interest.
Bondfield needed to show that its defamation suit has substantial merit; that The Globe has no valid defence against that lawsuit; and that the harm suffered by Bondfield outweighed the public interest in protecting The Globe’s freedom of expression in publishing the stories at issue.”