Small Claims and Defamation

In most defamation cases, a plaintiff claims two types of remedies:

  1. Monetary compensation for the damages to his or her reputation 
  2. A court order commanding a defendant to retract the defamatory statement.

The Small Claims Court deals only with those claims where the remedy requested is for paying money or returning property. It means that the first remedy, i.e. monetary compensation for a for damages to one’s reputation resulting from the publication of a defamatory statement can well be claimed in the Small Claims Court. However, the amount of such damages must, of course, be within the Small Claims Court monetary jurisdiction of $25,000.00.

It must be noted that going to the Small Claims Court, rather than the Superior Court of Justice, does not relieve the plaintiff from the obligation to prove each and every necessary element of the case, just as he or she would in the higher court. The court will need to hear evidence that:

  1. The statement was published, and
  2. That the statement was defamatory, which means that the statement was intended to cause reasonable persons to regard the plaintiff with hatred, contempt, fear or ridicule.

Apart from providing evidence with respect to the above, the plaintiff must also observe the rules set out in the Libel and Slander Act. The Act, for example, requires the plaintiff to give a publisher a written notice about the matter complained of within six weeks after an alleged libel came to the plaintiff’s attention. The action cannot be allowed if such notice is not given. 

As you can see, it is definitely possible to sue for damages resulting from defamation in the Small Claims Court, for an amount of up to $25,000.00. On the other hand, if retraction of a defamatory statement is a higher priority, or if one would like to recover greater damages, the victim of defamation should go to the Superior Court of Justice. 

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