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. Welch v. Quast

In Welch v. Quast (Div Ct, 2021) the Divisional Court considered the standard of pleadings in defamation in Small Claims Court:
[19] Defamation actions must plead the following elements: (i) particulars of the alleged defamatory words; (ii) publication of the defamatory words by the defendant; (iii) to whom the words were published; and (iv) that the words were defamatory of the plaintiff in their plain and ordinary meaning or by innuendo: The Capital Catalyst Group Inc. v Veritas Investment Research Corporation, 2017 ONCA 85 (CanLII) at paras. 23-24.

[20] The plaintiff amended his claim several times. It is frankly impossible to discern a cause of action in defamation in any of those versions of the claim. On a most liberal reading, I allow he claims the emails were false and that he was therefore defamed. However, no version of his pleading identifies the words in the impugned email that are allegedly defamatory.

[21] Review of Small Claims pleadings promotes a liberal approach, where litigants are not required to meet the higher standards of the Superior Court: 936464 Ontario Ltd. (cob Plumbhouse Plumbing & Heating) v Mungo Bear Ltd., 2003 CanLII 72356 (ON SCDC) However, I accept this liberal approach does not abrogate the plaintiff’s obligation to meet the requirements for pleading defamation even on a liberal reading of the statement of claim. The plaintiff’s claim went through a number of amendments. The final amendment before trial includes a claim for “defamation of character” but fails to identify the impugned words in the email that allegedly defamed him. In my view, this is fatal to the fundamental requirements for a defamation pleading, even on a less strict application in small claims court. It was therefore an error of law to conclude that defamation was sufficiently pleaded.


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