CBC Go Public 'responsible communication' defence succeeds in lawsuit
Dr. Fernando Casses sought damages in relation to allegations contained in 2009 stories
A B.C. doctor has lost his bid to sue the CBC's Go Public team and former patients for defamation in relation to allegations contained in a series of investigative stories.
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Elaine Adair found that former CBC reporter Kathy Tomlinson and the broadcaster "acted responsibly in developing and publishing" online and TV pieces about Dr. Fernando Casses.
The pieces detailed patient complaints against the doctor, as well as the circumstances which led to the surrender of his medical licence in Arizona in 2001 after admitting to "unprofessional conduct" in one case.\
Tomlinson now works for The Globe and Mail.
Casses sued the CBC, Tomlinson and a number of patients who spoke to Go Public. The decision says he claimed to have suffered "immediate and devastating injury" as a result of "cruel, incendiary and egregious serial libels."
But in a detailed, 169-page verdict, Adair found that while the statements themselves may have been defamatory, the CBC was justified in publishing them according to a defence known as "responsible communication."
"Needless to say, we welcome the outcome which confirms that CBC News is the leader in investigative journalism and that our work is done with great care and attention to fairness and accuracy," said Chuck Thompson, CBC's head of public affairs.
Responsible communication is a relatively new concept in Canadian courts, established by the Supreme Court of Canada to provide protection for timely communications on matters of public interest where truth can't be proved absolutely.
Defendants have to prove — among other things — that the matter was serious, important to the public and that they sought out and accurately reported the other side of the story.
Casses has 30 days to appeal the decision.