Former security CEO awarded $250,000 in defamation case against magazine over suggestion he misused company funds

Magazines on display on a Swedish news stand. Photo: Olaser/Getty Images Signature/Canva

A former CEO of a security systems firm has been awarded more than $250,000 in a defamation case against Business Vancouver magazine over an article it published that suggested he had misused company funds.

SP, who has had a longstanding career in security systems, was implicated in a January 2015 article titled ‘Lack of protection’ keeps Canadian whistleblowers at bay, which associated him with financial misconduct, a claim he vehemently denied.

The defendants, including the journalist who wrote the article and Glacier Media, which publishes the magazine, admitted that the article was defamatory and that it referred to SP. The court, therefore, only had to decide on the quantum of damages.

SP sought general, aggravated, punitive, and special damages, while the defendants suggested a general damages award between $40,000 to $60,000, denying the appropriateness of other damages.

Considering SP’s long and successful career, the court acknowledged that the defamatory statements significantly impacted his reputation and employment opportunities. Notably, the court found that the defamatory content in the article had impeded SP’s ability to secure employment in his specialized field.

Previous ruling against another publisher

SP won a similar judgement against Key Media International (KMI) after it published an article mentioning him the day after the after the Business Vancouver came out on an HR news-focused website.

KMI’s journalist “allegedly relied” on the Business Vancouver article for its story, the court said in the ruling.

The Supreme Court of British Columbia originally awarded SP $60,000 in damages against KMI, but SP appealed that ruling and the Court of Appeal increased the damages to $120,000.

Special damages awarded

The court in this case awarded SP $72,000 in general damages, after applying a 40% reduction considering mitigating factors including an apology issued by the defendants and the previous defamation award against KMI regarding similar allegations.

SP argued that the apology from Glacier Media came “too late” since it was not made at the earliest opportunity and only came out after the finding that the KMI article was defamatory and some five years after the claim was commenced.

“The plaintiff also submits the apology is inadequate and it was done without consultation or notice to him,” the court said. “The plaintiff denies the apology has the effect of mitigating damages.”

But the court found it to be a mitigating factor.

“I find that the apology received more online attention than the Subject Piece and that it was full, frank and non-ambiguous.  As such, the apology will be considered as a factor mitigating general damages and demonstrating an absence of actual malice,” it said.

Additionally, the court awarded $180,000 in special damages for the Business Vancouver article related to the loss of a job opportunity that SP missed due to the defamatory article. The court did not find sufficient grounds for aggravated or punitive damages.

For more information, see Pineau v Glacier Media Inc., 2024 BCSC 4 (CanLII)

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