What is the test for a defamation action?

British Columbia, Canada


The following excerpt is from Galloway v A.B, 2021 BCSC 2344 (CanLII):

To obtain judgment in a defamation action, the plaintiff must prove three things: (i) that the impugned words were defamatory, in the sense that they would tend to lower the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person; (ii) that the words in fact referred to the plaintiff; and (iii) that the words were published, meaning that they were communicated to at least one other person. Where the plaintiff establishes these elements, falsity and damage are presumed, and the onus shifts to the defendant to advance a defence in order to escape liability. Defamation is a tort of strict liability, so it is unnecessary to prove that the defendant was careless or intended to cause harm. See Grant v. Torstar Corp., 2009 SCC 61, at paras. 28-29.

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