Supreme Court of Canada clarifies the test for dismissing defamation claims as SLAPP suits

Date Closed

September 10, 2020

Lead Office

Toronto

On September 10, 2020, The Supreme Court of Canada issued a decision in Bent v. Platnick, 2020 SCC 23, in favour of Dr. Howard Platnick, an Ontario physician who had been hired by insurance companies to look at injury reports written by other medical professionals.

The president of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association (OTLA), Maia Bent, sent an email to all OTLA lawyers alleging that Dr. Platnick had misrepresented and changed other doctors’ reports to make her clients’ injuries look less serious. Dr. Platnick disputed the claims that were made in the e-mail, which was leaked to the public and published in full. He sued Ms. Bent and her law firm for defamation.

Ms. Bent brought a motion to have Dr. Platnick's lawsuit dismissed as a SLAPP suit, that is, an attempt to stop her from speaking out. The motion judge agreed with Ms. Bent that the defamation suit was a SLAPP suit and should be stopped. The Court of Appeal disagreed; it held that Dr. Platnick’s claim was not a SLAPP suit, and could go forward. The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal in a split decision, allowing the defamation suit to proceed.

The Canadian Constitution Foundation, a non-profit with the mission of defending the constitutional rights and freedoms of Canadians, acted as intervener in this appeal.

McCarthy Tétrault represented the Canadian Constitution Foundation before the Supreme Court of Canada, with a team led by Adam Goldenberg that included Simon Cameron, Solomon McKenzie and Aya Schechner.

The following is excerpted and adapted from the Supreme Court of Canada’s “Case in Brief” summary of this judgment. The Court’s summary is available in full here: https://www.scc-csc.ca/case-dossier/cb/2020/38374-eng.aspx

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