THE CANADIAN DEFAMATION ACTION
AN EMPIRICAL STUDY
Keywords:defamation, reform, corporation, libel, slander, damages, liability, tort, quantitative, empirical study, quantum of damages, media
This article presents the results of a quantitative study of Canadian defamation law actions, focusing on reported decisions between 1973 and 1983 and between 2003 and 2013. It aims to contribute to debate about defamation law reform, to contribute to scholarly work in defamation law or in tort law and remedies more generally, and to inform lawyers who are involved in defamation litigation. Its findings include: that damages have almost doubled when adjusted for inflation between these two periods; that corporate defamation cases make up about a third of defamation cases; that plaintiffs established liability much less often between 2003 and 2013 than between 1973 and 1983; that punitive damages are awarded much more often to corporations than to human plaintiffs, and in higher amounts; that punitive damages were awarded in about a quarter of cases in both periods; and that the rate of liability is greater for publications on the internet (including email) than publications in other media.