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Copyright 2000: Queen’s Printer,
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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Revised Statutes of Newfoundland 1990


CHAPTER D-3

AN ACT RESPECTING DEFAMATION

Analysis

1. Short title

2. Definitions

3. Presumption of damage

4. Allegations of plaintiff

5. Apology

6. Payment into court

7. Place of trial

8. General or special verdict

9. Consolidation of actions

10. Damages

11. Fair comment

12. Privileged publications and reports

13. Court proceedings privileged

14. Application of ss. 12 and 13

15. Application of ss. 16 to 20

16. Notice of action

17. Limitation of actions

18. Evidence

19. Special damages only

20. Non-application of ss. 16, 17 and 19


Short title

1. This Act may be cited as the Defamation Act.

1983 c63 s1

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Definitions

2. In this Act

(a) "broadcasting" means the dissemination of writing, signs, signals, pictures and sounds of all kinds, intended to be received by the public either directly or through the medium of relay stations, by means of,

(i) a form of wireless radio-electric communication utilizing Hertzian waves, including radiotelegraph and radiotelephone, or

(ii) cables, wires, fibre-optic linkages or laser beams,

and "broadcast" has a corresponding meaning;

(b) "defamation" means libel or slander;

(c) "newspaper" means a paper containing public news, intelligence or occurrences or remarks or observations or containing only, or principally, advertisements, printed for distribution to the public and published periodically, or in parts or numbers, at least 12 times a year;

(d) "public meeting" means a lawful meeting held in good faith and for a lawful purpose and to further or discuss a matter of public concern, whether admission to the meeting is general or restricted; and

(e) "publication" includes a newspaper or a broadcast.

1983 c63 s2

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Presumption of damage

3. (1) An action lies for defamation.

(2) In an action for defamation where defamation is proved, damage shall be presumed.

1983 c63 s3

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Allegations of plaintiff

4. In an action for defamation the plaintiff may allege that the matter complained of was used in a defamatory sense, specifying the defamatory sense without alleging how the matter was used in that sense, and the pleading shall be put in issue by the denial of the alleged defamation; and where the matters set out, with or without the alleged meaning, shows a cause of action, the pleading is sufficient.

1983 c63 s4

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Apology

5. In an action for defamation in which

(a) the defendant has pleaded a denial of the alleged defamation only;

(b) the defendant has suffered judgment by default; or

(c) judgment has been given against the defendant on motion for judgment on the pleadings,

the defendant may give in evidence in mitigation of damages that he or she made or offered a written or printed apology to the plaintiff for the defamation

(d) before the commencement of the action; or

(e) if the action was commenced before there was an opportunity of making or offering the apology, as soon afterwards as there was an opportunity.

1983 c63 s5

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Payment into court

6. The defendant may pay into court with his or her defence a sum of money to amend the injury sustained by the publication of the defamatory matter, with or without a denial of liability, and the payment has the same effect as payment into court in other cases.

1983 c63 s6

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Place of trial

7. An action for defamation shall be tried in the Trial Division before a judge or before a judge and jury.

1983 c63 s7

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General or special verdict

8. On the trial of an action for defamation before a jury

(a) the jury may give a general verdict upon the whole matter in issue in the action, and shall not be required or directed to find for the plaintiff merely on proof of publication by the defendant of the alleged defamation and of the sense ascribed to it in the action;

(b) the court shall, according to its discretion, give its opinion and directions to the jury on the matter in issue as in other cases; and

(c) the jury may on the issue upon being directed to do so by the court find a special verdict, if they think fit to do so,

and the proceedings after verdict, whether general or special, shall be the same as in other cases.

1983 c63 s8

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Consolidation of actions

9. (1) Upon an application by 2 or more defendants in 2 or more actions brought by the same person for the same or substantially the same defamation, the court may make an order for the consolidation of the actions so that they will be tried together.

(2) After an order has been made under subsection (1) and before the trial of the actions, the defendants in new actions instituted in respect of that defamation are also entitled to be joined in a common action upon a joint application by the new defendants and the defendants in the action already consolidated.

1983 c63 s9

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Damages

10. (1) In a consolidated action under section 9 the court or jury shall assess the whole amount of the damages in one sum, but a separate verdict shall be given for or against each defendant in the same way as if the actions consolidated had been tried separately.

(2) Where the court or jury gives a verdict against defendants in more than 1 of the consolidated actions, it shall apportion the amount of the damages between and against those defendants; and, where the plaintiff is awarded the costs of the action, the judge shall make an order which he or she considers just for the apportionment of the costs between and against those defendants.

1983 c63 s10

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Fair comment

11. (1) Where the defendant published alleged defamatory matter that is an opinion expressed by another person, a defence of fair comment shall not fail for the reason only that the defendant did not hold the opinion where

(a) the defendant did not know that the person expressing the opinion did not hold the opinion; and

(b) a person could honestly hold the opinion.

(2) For the purpose of this section, the defendant is not under a duty to inquire into whether the person expressing the opinion does or does not hold the opinion.

1983 c63 s11

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Privileged publications and reports

12. (1) A fair and accurate report, published in a newspaper or by broadcasting, of a public meeting or, except where neither the public nor a reporter is admitted, of proceedings in

(a) the Senate or House of Commons of Canada;

(b) the House of Assembly or the Legislature of a province of Canada;

(c) a committee of 1 of these bodies;

(d) a meeting of commissioners authorized to act by or under a statute or other lawful warrant or authority; or

(e) a meeting of

(i) a municipal council,

(ii) a school board,

(iii) a hospital board, or

(iv) another board or local authority formed or constituted under a public Act of the Parliament of Canada or the Legislature of this province or a province of Canada, or of a committee appointed by these boards or local authorities,

is privileged, unless it is proved that the publication was made maliciously.

(2) The publication in a newspaper or by broadcasting, at the request of a government department, bureau or office or public officer, of a report, bulletin, notice or other document issued for the information of the public is privileged, unless it is proved that the publication was made maliciously.

(3) Nothing in this section applies to the publication of seditious, blasphemous or indecent matter.

(4) Subsections (1) and (2) do not apply where,

(a) in the case of publication in a newspaper,

(i) the plaintiff shows that the defendant has been requested to insert in the newspaper a reasonable letter or statement of explanation or contradiction by or on behalf of the plaintiff, and

(ii) the defendant fails to show that he or she has done so; or

(b) in the case of publication by broadcasting,

(i) the plaintiff shows that the defendant has been requested to broadcast a reasonable statement of explanation or contradiction by or on behalf of the plaintiff, and

(ii) the defendant fails to show that he or she has done so from the broadcasting stations from which the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, on at least 2 occasions on different days and at the same time of day as the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast or as near as possible to that time.

(5) Nothing in this section limits or abridges a privilege existing now by law, or applies to the publication of a matter

(a) not of public concern; or

(b) the publication of which is not for the public benefit.

1983 c63 s12

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Court proceedings privileged

13. (1) A fair and accurate report, published in a newspaper or by broadcasting, of proceedings publicly heard before a court is absolutely privileged where

(a) the report contains no comment;

(b) the report is published contemporaneously with the proceedings that are the subject-matter of the report, or within 30 days after those proceedings; and

(c) the report contains nothing of a seditious, blasphemous or indecent nature.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply where,

(a) in the case of publication in a newspaper,

(i) the plaintiff shows that the defendant has been requested to insert in the newspapers a reasonable letter or statement of explanation or contradiction by or on behalf of the plaintiff, and

(ii) the defendant fails to show that he or she has done so; or

(b) in the case of publication by broadcasting,

(i) the plaintiff shows that the defendant has been requested to broadcast a reasonable statement of explanation or contradiction by or on behalf of the plaintiff, and

(ii) the defendant fails to show that he or she has done so from the broadcasting stations from which the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, on at least 2 occasions on different days and at the same time of day as the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast or as near as possible to that time.

1983 c63 s13

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Application of ss. 12 and 13

14. Sections 12 and 13 apply to every headline or caption in a newspaper that relates to a report in that newspaper.

1983 c63 s14

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Application of ss. 16 to 20

15. Sections 16 to 20 apply only to actions for defamation against

(a) the proprietor or publisher of a newspaper;

(b) the owner or operator of a broadcasting station; or

(c) an officer, servant or employee of those persons,

in respect of defamatory matter published in the newspaper or from the broadcasting station.

1983 c63 s15

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Notice of action

16. (1) No action lies unless the plaintiff has, within 3 months after the publication of the defamatory matter has come to his or her notice or knowledge, given to the defendant, in the case of a daily newspaper, 7, and in the case of another newspaper or where the defamatory matter was broadcast, 14 days' notice in writing of his or her intention to bring an action, specifying the defamatory matter complained of.

(2) The notice shall be served in the same manner as a statement of claim.

1983 c63 s16

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Limitation of actions

17. (1) An action against

(a) the proprietor or publisher of a newspaper;

(b) the owner or operator of a broadcasting station; or

(c) an officer, servant or employee of the newspaper or broadcasting station,

for defamation contained in the newspaper or broadcast from the station shall be started within 4 months after the publication of the defamatory matter came to the notice or knowledge of the person defamed.

(2) An action brought and maintainable for defamation published within the period referred to in subsection (1) may include a claim for another defamation published against the plaintiff by the defendant in the same newspaper or from the same station within a period of 1 year before the start of the action.

1983 c63 s17; 1985 c13 s4

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Evidence

18. (1) The defendant may prove in mitigation of damages

(a) that the defamatory matter was inserted in the newspaper or was broadcast without actual malice and without gross negligence; and

(b) that before the start of the action, or at the earliest opportunity afterwards, the defendant

(i) inserted in the newspaper in which the defamatory matter was published a full and fair retraction of the matter on the same page on which the defamatory matter was published and in the same type and a full apology for the defamation, or, where the newspaper is one ordinarily published at intervals exceeding 1 week, that the defendant offered to publish a retraction and apology in a newspaper to be selected by the plaintiff, or

(ii) broadcast that retraction and apology, from the broadcasting stations from which the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, on at least 2 occasions on different days and at the same time of day as the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast or as near as possible to that time.

(2) The defendant may prove in mitigation of damages that the plaintiff has already brought action for, or has recovered damages, or has received or agreed to receive compensation in respect of defamation to the same purport or effect as that for which action is brought.

1983 c63 s18

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Special damages only

19. (1) The plaintiff shall recover only special damages if it appears on the trial

(a) that the alleged defamatory matter was published in good faith;

(b) that there was reasonable ground to believe that the publication of the alleged defamatory matter was for the public benefit;

(c) that it did not impute to the plaintiff the commission of a criminal offence;

(d) that the publication took place in mistake or misapprehension of the facts; and

(e) either

(i) where the alleged defamatory matter was published in a newspaper, that a full and fair retraction of and a full apology for the statement alleged in the newspaper to be erroneous were published in the newspaper before the commencement of the action, and were published in as conspicuous a place and type as was the alleged defamatory matter, or

(ii) where the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, that the retraction and apology were broadcast from broadcasting stations from which the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast, on at least 2 occasions on different days and at the same time of day as the alleged defamatory matter was broadcast or as near as possible to that time.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to the case of defamation against a candidate for public office unless the retraction and apology are

(a) made editorially in the newspaper in a conspicuous manner; or

(b) broadcast,

at least 5 days before the election.

1983 c63 s19

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Non-application of ss.16, 17 and 19

20. (1) A defendant in an action for defamation published in a newspaper is not entitled to the benefit of sections 16, 17 and 19 unless the name of the proprietor and publisher and address of publication are stated in a conspicuous place in the newspaper.

(2) The production of a printed copy of a newspaper is, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, proof of the publication of the printed copy, and of the truth of the statements mentioned in subsection (1).

(3) Where a person, by registered letter containing that person's address and addressed to a broadcasting station,

(a) alleges that defamation against him or her has been broadcast from the station; and

(b) requests the name and address of the owner or operator of the station, or the names and addresses of the owner and the operator of the station,

sections 16, 17 and 19 do not apply with respect to an action by the person against the owner or operator for the alleged defamation unless the person whose name and address are so requested delivers the requested information to the first-mentioned person, or mails it by registered letter addressed to him or her, within 10 days from the date on which the first-mentioned registered letter is received at the broadcasting station.

1983 c63 s20

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