Kent v Postmedia: The largest individual defamation award given in Alberta.

Author:Jesse, Kent
 
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On June 8, 2016, the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta released a 60-page ruling in the cases of Kent v. Martin, and Kent v. Postmedia, awarding $150,000 in general damages for the print publication of a defamatory article, and a further $50,000 for continuing online publication. Costs of the legal proceedings remain to be determined.

This decision provides a thorough overview of defamation law related to media publications in Canada, and represents the most current application of the defence of Responsible Communication on Matters of Public Interest established by the Supreme Court of Canada in Grant v. Torstar Corp.

That defence provides that, even if the statements made or comments published defame the Plaintiff, if the matter communicated about is of public interest and the defendant acted responsibly with proper diligence, defamatory statements will not attract liability.

Background

Arthur Kent is an Emmy Award winning journalist and documentary film producer who rose to fame during the Gulf War, earning himself the nickname the "Scud Stud". After an extensive career reporting around the world, Mr. Kent returned to his home province of Alberta to run as a candidate for the Progressive Conservatives in the 2008 provincial election.

During the course of his election campaign, on February 12, 2008, the Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, and National Post published, in print, an article written by Don Martin which contained serious factual errors related to his campaign and which also heavily impugned Mr. Kent's character. Although some parts of the article contained opinion, it was published on the "Top News" page. The article was also published on the defendants' many websites and was available for viewing for nearly five years until Mr. Kent achieved its removal from those websites in November 2012.

After the initial publication, Mr. Kent pointed out errors in the article and asked the news organization to publish his written response, but it refused. Publishing Mr. Kent's response would have ended the matter. Instead, litigation commenced in 2008 and was vigorously contested by both sides, resulting in numerous reported and unreported decisions regarding procedural matters pursuant to the Alberta Rules of Court.

In October 2015 Mr. Kent retained Kent Jesse at McLennan Ross LLP to assist him at trial. The trial commenced in November 2015 and was concluded by December 2015. Over 30 witnesses testified, including journalism standards and...

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