Ridout Barron


Legislation in existence to prevent SLAPP actions

Many companies in Alberta allow for reviews on their products and services to be posted online. However, these reviews sometimes are not in favor of companies. At such a time, a company many attempt to file a defamation lawsuit, which may also be known as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, against the poster of a review. These SLAPP tactics have been said to be attacks against freedom of speech.

Most states in the U.S. have passed legislation that allows for courts to dismiss SLAPP actions, as did Quebec in 2009. Ontario has plans to also do so, but this had not been done by September 2013 when a $7 million lawsuit was filed by a company with forestry operations throughout the country. One organization had criticized the company's operations, and the civil litigation led the defendant to accuse the company of using a bullying tactic as a distraction.

One lawyer said that a way to avoid a SLAPP action is to be honest during reviews. She says that, while legislation is the best solution, reviewers could give legitimate reasons for their opinions while specifying that the reviews are simply based on their own personal experiences. She explained that these types of lawsuits came into existence due to the intentional use of anonymity as a tool to be malicious, which would be a legitimate reason for a lawsuit.

When those of a corporation believe that another has engaged in a defamatory practice, they may wish to file a lawsuit in order to force a retraction of statements or collect financial compensation. However, there is a chance that the court will believe the lawsuit is frivolous and subsequently throw it out. A lawyer could review the allegations prior to any court filing in order to estimate the potential of a lawsuit. From the side of the defendant, a lawyer could determine the validity of the allegations.

Source: The Telegram, "Be aware — and wary — of SLAPP lawsuits", Geoff Meeker, May 12, 2014

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