Licensee Suing to Protect His Reputation #213

Dec 01, 1993

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By Gerry Neely
B.A., LL.B.

A licensee who found himself the victim of substantial and sustained abusive remarks from a local resident was forced to sue the resident for damages for defamation, in order to protect the licensee's reputation. Apart from the usual obscenities, the defendant referred to the licensee as, "a scum bag who would screw old people", and advised prospective purchasers and neighbors not to buy a house through the licensee because, "he will screw you the way he did my mother."

The defendant accused the licensee of forcing his mother to sell her property for less than it was worth by his intimidation of her. The initial remarks were made when the property the licensee was showing to prospective purchasers or tenants, was the property the defendant's mother had owned. The licensee's role in that sale had been as the selling agent.

The obsessive repetition of derogatory comments such as these in a small community affected the licensee's business. He found that five different properties in the vicinity of the property he had been showing had been listed with, and sold by, other real estate agencies but none had been listed with his firm. His business relationships with other professional and business people had been affected, and he was reluctant to show properties to them because of the possibility that the defendant would direct obscenities at him in the presence of his clients. The licensee believed that the defendant's conduct adversely impacted his life both financially and psychologically.

The licensee decided he had no alternative other than to sue when the defendant advised the licensee's lawyer that the defendant intended to publish, in the local newspaper, an ad seeking the names of other people who had had business dealings with the licensee. In response to the action brought against him, the defendant pleaded the truth as a defense and stated that his remarks were fair comment made in good faith on a matter of public interest.

The evidence concerning his mother failed to support his defense. The defendant's allegation of intimidation of his mother was negated by evidence that the family had agreed with the mother to list the property for sale, and that the mother accepted the offer in the presence of both the listing agent and the licensee.

A finding of defamation is intended to protect a person's reputation. Untrue remarks which, "adversely reflect upon the business, trade, profession or calling of a person are defamatory." Remarks which discredit a person's performance or capacity to perform his profession or work, enable the person to sue for damages. Remarks which suggest dishonesty or incompetence are presumed to inevitably give rise to injury to a person's reputation.

The judge held that the defendant's remarks imputed a lack of honesty and integrity in the licensee's conduct of his profession. Damages could be awarded to compensate the licensee for the loss of his reputation and for any direct financial loss he could prove. The damages could be increased or reduced, depending upon the conduct of the defendant. The licensee was unable to prove a specific financial loss, but was awarded damages of $ 1 0,000 as compensation for his loss of reputation, and for the injury to his self esteem. A further $2,000 was added to this amount because of the, "continuing, persistent and malicious conduct and words" of the defendant.

The defendant's threat to continue this harassment, resulted in the judge issuing an order restraining the defendant from continuing to make any further slanderous or obscene comments or amputations towards the licensee personally, or in the conduct of his business, directly or indirectly.1

  1. Tymofievich vs. Miros, S.C.B.C., Rossland Registry number 02515, (Reasons for judgement, September15,1993).

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