Saul Rabinowitz, et al. v. Ronald Rutman

(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)


Damages - Quantum, Torts, Libel and slander - Damages – Quantum – Torts – Libel and slander – Internet defamation campaign orchestrated by former business associates following a business disagreement – What are the appropriate factors for courts to consider in assessing damages for defamation undertaken via the Internet?.


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Mr. Rutman is a Toronto chartered accountant, a partner at a firm where he has worked for over 40 years. It was undisputed that he enjoys an excellent reputation in Toronto, has been successful in business, and plays an active leadership role in his cultural and religious communities. He and Misters Rabinowitz and Bergman are former business associates. Following a business disagreement, they arrived at a settlement of their issues. However, Misters Rabinowitz and Bergman and their company were unhappy with some of the terms of the settlement and subsequently began an Internet defamation campaign against Mr. Rutman. The campaign involved posting numerous defamatory allegations on a website for sharing reviews and recommendations of services. Mr. Rabinowitz also sent emails to Mr. Rutman’s contacts, impersonating Mr. Rutman and encouraging them to visit the website where the fake reviews were posted. The campaign was designed to harm Mr. Rutman’s personal and professional reputations.

The trial judge found Mr. Bergman and the corporate defendant jointly and severally liable with Mr. Rabinowitz for defamation. He awarded $200,000 general damages against all three defendants, $200,000 aggravated damages and $250,000 punitive damages against Mr. Rabinowitz and $50,000 punitive damages against Mr. Bergman. The appeal was dismissed.