Is it defamatory? Canadian court to hear fight over Google review

Sep 14 2022, 1:56 pm

A jury is set to decide whether a bad Google review about a BC business was defamatory after a judge dismissed an attempt to get the case thrown out.

Smiley Kids Dental and Dr. Edward Chin brought the civil claim forward because of a negative review posted on Smiley’s Google Reviews page in October 2020.

The review posted by William Huang’s account alleged that “Dr. Chin had horrible customer service and treated our child with [zero] care. Very unimpressed.”

The defendants, Huang and Sophia Nim, filed a motion to dismiss the case under Supreme Court Civil Rule 9-5 because they said the plaintiffs’ “pleaded defamatory statement is not capable of being defamatory.”

A case under Supreme Court Civil Rule 9-5 allows the court to dismiss all or part of a claim.

Justice Gordon S. Funt said he needed to determine whether the posting is “capable of being defamatory.”

“If the test is met, then the applications must be dismissed. It cannot be said that the plaintiffs’ claim is bound to fail,” he said.

Funt said he found the subject is capable of being defamatory but he will allow the jury to determine whether the posting is in fact defamatory.

“In my view, a reasonable, right-thinking person would not view the posting as silly, vague, vacuous, or just part of the uncouthness and boorishness frequently seen on the Internet,” he said, as the post specifically referred to Chin.

“The author of the posting also refers to “horrible customer service,” he said.

“In my view, a reasonable, right-thinking person who had a young child and who was looking for a pediatric dentist for his or her child may view the posting negatively in deciding whether or not to select the plaintiffs for his or her child’s dental care.”

Funt defines the function of defamation law as a way to protect a reputation from harm that is unjustified. When a good reputation is tarnished, it has devastating consequences, particularly in a professional context.

It is not clear what damages are being sought.

Nikitha MartinsNikitha Martins

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