A Quebec Superior Court judge has ordered nursing home owner Eddie Savoie to pay nearly $300,000 in damages and other costs to the daughter of a nursing home resident whom he tried to sue for defamation.
Justice Gary D.D. Morrison granted the sum for damages stemming from a $400,000 lawsuit that Savoie launched against Pierrette Thériault-Martel in 2011.
Savoie launched the suit after Thériault-Martel began questioning her dying mother’s treatment and raising concerns about the quality of patient services at the Savoie-owned CHSLD St-Lambert-sur-le-Golf.
Among other indignities cited by Thériault-Martel, her mother did not have her diaper changed regularly.
In 2013, Quebec Superior Court ruled that Savoie’s lawsuit was abusive and granted Thériault-Martel leave to counter-sue him for damages.
The court ruled that the sole purpose of Savoie's original lawsuit was to silence and intimidate Thériault-Martel.
In a statement, Thériault-Martel’s lawyer, Jean-Pierre Ménard, heralded Morrison’s decision as a victory for whistleblowers and free speech.
“It is a judgment that will help… those who defend the rights of tenants and consumers, those who work to protect the environment and all caregivers in the field of health defending the everyday rights of of their families who are not receiving the care they deserve,” Ménard said.
“This is also an important victory for freedom of expression in a society where powerful interests seek too often to limit or prevent the public debate on key issues affecting all citizens,” he said.
Ménard called his client “a woman of heart and courage” and said the award of nearly $300,000 in the case is a significant improvement over previous cases, which were never granted more than $50,000 in damages.
“Others in her place would have given up, but she fought on,” he said.