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DEFAMATION - Republication

Monday, March 15, 2021 @ 9:30 AM  


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Appeal by the plaintiff from a decision dismissing his application to amend his pleadings to add claims of republication of libel by a third party, the Calgary Herald, in a defamation action. The case management judge found this claim was statute barred. The appellant’s family business was seeking a land redesignation which the respondent opposed. Following a Planning Commission hearing, the appellant allegedly approached the respondent and made threatening comments to him. The respondent told a reporter about the interaction, and stories regarding the incident were published in the Calgary Herald in February 2015, March 2015 and May 2015 which the appellant claimed caused the land redesignation to be rejected. The motion to amend was brought in 2019. The appellant argued the republication claim was not statute barred because the articles originally published in 2015 continued to be available on the Calgary Herald’s website and a new cause of action with a new limitation period arose every time a third party viewed the defamatory material on the website. The appellant also argued that the particulars contained all the necessary allegations that the respondent made the statements to the reporter with knowledge that they would be published, that they were published, and that they continued to be available online.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The law with respect to whether a defamatory statement available on a website constituted a new publication which gave rise to a new cause of action and limitation period every time it was viewed was not settled in Alberta. While the case management judge concluded that the appellant was aware of republications by the Calgary Herald in 2015, and found the limitation period had long since passed, his reasons did not address whether the proposed amendments were related to the conduct, transaction or events described in the original pleading and whether “original pleading” included the Statement of Claim filed in 2017, the Amended Statement of Claim filed in 2018, and the particulars requested by the respondent and provided by the appellant. Given the complexity created by the interrelationship between these issues and the unsettled nature of the law, the court was not satisfied that the proposed amendments were necessarily hopeless.

Terrigno v. Butzner, [2021] A.J. No. 91, Alberta Court of Appeal, J. Strekaf, R. Khullar and D. Pentelechuk JJ.A., January 26, 2021. Digest No. TLD-March152021002