Defamation and Privacy Breach Claim against the CBC dismissed
July 24, 2015
Following a 13-week jury trial in Toronto, McCarthy Tétrault successfully obtained a jury verdict in favour of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and three of its journalists in a case alleging defamation and breach of privacy and seeking more than $132 million in damages. The lawsuit was brought by Ranjit Kumar Chandra, a former researcher and professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, who was the subject of a 3-part documentary, “The Secret Life of Dr. Chandra,” on the CBC news program The National in 2006.
The plaintiff alleged that the documentary’s statements about scientific fraud and financial deception were defamatory and untrue. He further claimed that the CBC defendants breached his privacy and committed the tort of intrusion upon seclusion in how they researched and produced the documentary.
The trial proceeded before a jury and was presided over by The Honourable Graeme Mew from April to July 2015. Witnesses included prominent academics and scientists from the United Kingdom and the United States, many of whom had previously raised concerns about Dr. Chandra’s work and had been featured in the CBC documentary. Several individuals who had worked in Dr. Chandra’s offices also testified.
The CBC relied on the defence of truth and, in the alternative, defences of responsible communication and fair comment. The jury delivered its verdict on July 24, 2015, finding that the documentary’s statements were true and therefore that there was no need to consider the alternative defences. The jury also found that the CBC had not unlawfully intruded upon Chandra’s seclusion or breached his privacy. The Plaintiff’s claims were therefore dismissed in their entirety.
McCarthy Tétrault acted for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with a team consisting of Christine L. Lonsdale, Elder C. Marques and Gillian P. Kerr.