A blogger is being fined $30,000 after she posted negative reviews about the plastic surgeon who performed her breast implant surgery.
The Supreme Court of British Columbia case serves as a cautionary tale that “online review platforms are not a carte blanche to say whatever one wishes without potential consequences,” Justice Gordon Weatherhill wrote in his judgment.
In court documents, Weatherhill outlines how Rosa Campagna Deck hired Kelowna plastic surgeon Brian Peterson to perform a breast augmentation in 2015, but she was unhappy with the results that left her with one breast lower than the other.
Three years later, she posted reviews on her website and on Google Reviews which called into question Peterson’s competency and reputation while claiming he made mistakes, allegations that were later dismissed by the court, which found she misrepresented the facts.
Initially Peterson asked the blogger to remove her reviews, but she said no. Peterson then filed a defamation suit.
In defamation cases, truth is the ultimate defence. Ultimately, Justice Weatherhill found that many of Campagna Deck’s statements were false. As well, her reviews relied heavily on opinion, which can also be protected under fair comment, but those comments need to be based on fact.
“The defendant’s description of a number of the background facts that make up the Posts, I conclude, misrepresents the facts,” wrote the judge.
“Consumer reviews, as a general principle, ought to be encouraged and there is a very real danger of a chilling effect if they are curtailed. However, such reviews should not be left unbridled,” he wrote.
“Defamatory comments dressed up as reviews that are not factual or do not qualify as fair comment are subject to the laws of defamation.”
Along with the damages, Campagna Deck must also remove the reviews.