How much does a defamation lawsuit cost?

Know more about defamation lawsuit costs, how they are calculated, and other legal and financial considerations in filing a case in court
How much does a defamation lawsuit cost?

Have you ever been subject to a malicious accusation in a newspaper or in an online post? Did filing a defamation lawsuit suddenly cross your mind?

Before doing so, it’s important to know the defamation lawsuit cost, and other legal considerations, to help you decide whether it’s worth pursuing or not.

What are Canada’s laws on defamation?

Defamation is that act, communication, or published material by a person (the defendant) that damages the reputation of another (the plaintiff).

In Canada, the laws on defamation are based on two sets of laws:

  • common law principles: apply to common law provinces
  • Civil Code: applies to Québec only

Civil defamation lawsuits are based on these two laws. However, the criminal aspect of defamation can be found in the federal Criminal Code, under Section 298(1).

Elements of defamation

In defamation lawsuits, the plaintiff must establish certain elements for them to be entitled for compensation against the defendant. These elements are:

  • the publication is clearly defamatory when read by a reasonable or “right thinking” person;
  • the publication can be attributed to the plaintiff, or that it can be identified to be targeting the plaintiff; and
  • the publication is publicly made or communicated to more than one person, other than the plaintiff

Know more about defamation in this video:

If you’re from Vancouver and other nearby areas, hear more about defamation lawsuit costs from one of the Lexpert-ranked best defamation lawyers for media litigation in BC.

How much does it cost to sue someone for defamation in Canada?

The actual costs of filing a defamation case in Canada – as with any other lawsuit – will depend on factors such as:

  • lawyer’s fees
  • costs in filing the case in court

Lawyer’s fees

Lawyer’s fees are calculated based on the number of hours that the lawyer worked for your case. The complexity of the case and the amount of damages you’re asking for are factors as well.

When handling a case, lawyers may charge you at an hourly rate or on a contingency basis. These are apart from consultation fees and the actual filing fees.

Costs in filing the case in court

Aside from lawyer’s fees, filing the case in court is another financial factor in a defamation lawsuit. These costs are called court fees or filing fees, which may vary depending on the area where you’ll be filing your case.

What are the damages for defamation in Canada?

If you’re successful in your defamation lawsuit, damages will be awarded in your favor.

Coming up with a specific amount of damages needs a legal basis and evidence to support such an amount. It’s important to consult a defamation lawyer on this, aside from asking if you have a strong case.

General and special damages

Under Canada’s law on torts, there are two types of compensatory damages that a plaintiff can recover as compensation from the defendant:

  • general damages: refers to non-financial aspects, such as for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering
  • special damages: refers to the financial loss of the plaintiff, such as the actual and future expenses due to the injury

General damages are capped by the Supreme Court at a certain amount, which is adjusted annually due to inflation.

In defamation lawsuits, general damages can translate into your hurt feelings, psychological stress, and other mental effects due to the published material.

Special damages in defamation suits can be the economic losses you suffered from the publication. For example, it is to compensate for the losses that your business incurred due to the stained reputation after the alleged defamatory article was published.

As a plaintiff in a defamation lawsuit, you have the burden of proving your claims to justify the award of damages. It means that you must present evidence to support your claims. Otherwise, the court will just deny it, or reduce the amount of damages it may award.

Reimbursements for legal costs

In addition to the general and special damages that you can ask from the court, it can also order the losing party to reimburse you for your legal costs, such as your attorney’s fees. It’s not always a guarantee that these “reimbursements” will cover all your legal costs and other expenses when filing the defamation suit.

In some cases, the total amount awarded (damages, plus legal costs) may even be lower than what you’ve incurred. Worse, you may even lose, and the court will not award you anything at all.

Since the award of damages will depend on the strength of your case, it’s important to work with a lawyer who is an expert in handling defamation cases.

What are the strategies to mitigate defamation lawsuit costs?

There are many strategies that can lower the costs of defamation lawsuits. You may want to discuss these options with your defamation lawyer first, to know whether any of these applies to your case.

Alternatives to a defamation lawsuit

One of the most obvious ways to lower a defamation lawsuit cost is to not file it at all. While this may seem disadvantageous on your part, there are still other ways to deal with defamatory statements against you.

When possible, you can reach out to the publisher of the defamatory statement to either take down the article or edit it with your side of the story for clarifications. This can be done through your lawyer, to prevent any further damage to your reputation or any hostilities between you and the publisher.

In some cases, not taking any action at all may be the best thing to do. This may be an option if taking further legal action can be even more damaging than being helpful. To find out if it’s even worth suing for defamation, consult a defamation lawyer.

Out-of-court settlements

Related to not filing a defamation lawsuit is going through an out-of-court settlement with the publisher of the alleged defamatory statement.

Instead of going through a lengthy court battle, which is not only expensive but also time-consuming, you and the other party may just want to enter into a settlement agreement. Again, it’s still important to consult with a defamation lawyer if filing a lawsuit is the better road to take, rather than these suggested options above.

To learn more about the defamation lawsuit cost, present your case to the best defamation lawyer for media litigation in Canada as ranked by Lexpert.