Judge tosses out $6M lawsuit over tweets by Guelph couple about medical imaging clinic

A Superior Court judge has tossed out a $6 million defamation lawsuit tied to a Twitter spat between the owner of Guelph Medical Imaging and a local woman who criticized him online.

Defendants 'happy to be vindicated,' lawyer says

This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. An Ontario Superior Court Justice has tossed out a $6-million defamation lawsuit tied to a Twitter spat between the owner of a Guelph medical imaging centre and a local woman who criticized him online. (The Associated Press)

NOTE: This story contains offensive language.

An Ontario Superior Court justice has tossed out a $6 million defamation lawsuit tied to an online spat between the owner of Guelph Medical Imaging and a local woman who criticized him on Twitter.

Probhash Mondal sued Stephanie Evans-Bitten and her wife last summer for defamation. He alleged the pair used the social media platform to hurt him and his business.

In June 2021, Evans-Bitten posted a screenshot of some of Mondal's own tweets. One questioned why Toronto Mayor John Tory attended a drag show and used a slur for people who are transgender.

Another tweet from Mondal included a photo of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, waving a flag that combined a maple leaf emblem and a rainbow, with the comment: "Is it possible that our Prime Minister suffers from Vexiphobia? That which he waves is NOT our national flag. Please do not defile our flag." 

Evans-Bitten said in her tweet that members of the local LGTBQ community were forced to go elsewhere for diagnostic imaging because Mondal's clinic was "owned and lead by a man who thinks and tweets this stuff." 

Earlier this week, Justice Edward M. Morgan ruled Evans-Bitten's commentary was considered fair comment in the realm of Twitter. He dismissed Mondal's lawsuit as a "strategic lawsuit against public participation," a type of suit used to intimidate or silence critics.

"Mr. Mondal jumped into the turbulent river of Twitter commentary with some vulgarly worded observations that touched a nerve with the defendants," Morgan wrote in his decision.

"He got it back as good as he gave it, and got wet in the process." 

Decision a 'huge relief' for defendants

Morgan simultaneously dismissed a lawsuit Mondal had filed against leaders at the Guelph Family Health Team, who had forwarded Evans-Bitten's tweets to their constituency of physicians with a reminder that the organization was committed to "diversity, anti-oppression and inclusion."

Lawyer Marcus McCann, who represented Evans-Bitten and her wife in the matter, said the judge's decision was a "huge relief" for the couple. 

"They're happy to be vindicated and looking forward to returning to a normal life, turning the page without a $6 million lawsuit hanging over their heads," he said. 

McCann said he also believes the decision supports LGBTQ people in their right to express themselves online. 

Mondal's lawyer has not responded to CBC K-W's requests for comment.