$425K in damages in Trout Point defamation case
A fishing lodge in Yarmouth County has won $425,000 in a defamation suit, making it the largest award ever granted in a Nova Scotia courtroom in a defamation case.
Charles Leary and Vaughn Perret, the managing directors of Trout Point Lodge in East Kemptville, were each awarded $100,000 in general damages, $50,000 in aggravated damages and $25,000 in punitive damages.
The damages, against a blogger named Douglas Handshoe, were announced in a decision handed down by Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Hood on Wednesday.
"To sum up the past two years, it's been agonizing, distressing and a lesson in the true value of having a civil society whose values need application to the internet," Leary told CBC News.
In addition to the damages awarded to Leary and Perret, Trout Point Lodge received $75,000 in general damages.
Under the law of defamation, corporations cannot receive aggravated damages because they do not have feelings.
The Nova Scotia Supreme Court decision comes after two years of comments on an American blog, incorrectly linking Trout Point Lodge to a Louisiana political corruption scandal.
Handshoe, the founder of the Slabbed website based in Mississippi, followed a story published in a newspaper in New Orleans that claimed Louisiana politician Aaron Broussard owned Trout Point Lodge and used it for criminal activity.
Difficult to gauge impact to lodge
Leary said the politician owned property nearby and occasionally asked the lodge to manage his affairs, but that's where the connection ends.
The newspaper retracted its comments, but Leary said the blogger refused and continued to target his business with derogatory comments.
"He has continued to defame us in a very torturous way, accusing us of all sorts of criminal acts — involvement in this corruption scandal, money laundering, racketeering, misleading investors and bilking local contractors," he said.
"One of the most insidious things he did was attack our sexual orientation."
Leary and Perret — who represented themselves in the defamation case — said it's difficult to gauge how much of an impact the blog had on business at Trout Point Lodge over the last two years.
"The thing about internet defamation is you never know what kind of impact it's going to have, and that's one of the things the judge noted," said Leary.
"We got, for instance, an email from someone just out of the blue saying, 'I was going to come for a week-long stay at your lodge, but then I started looking around the internet and I saw all the stuff and put on the brakes.' And that's just someone who took the time to write to us for some reason to tell us he wasn't coming."
On top of the damages, Handshoe has also been ordered to take down his material and never publish about Trout Point Lodge or its owners again.
The previous largest damage settlement in a defamation suit in Nova Scotia went to an engineering firm that sued the provincial Environment Department and won $300,000.