January 27, 2017
Veneruzzo et al v Storey 2017 ONSC 683
The motion was brought by the defendant Darryl Storey, for an order dismissing the plaintiffs’ action in defamation, intentional infliction of mental distress and intrusion upon seclusion, arising out of posts that Mr. Storey made on his Facebook account.
Mr. Storey is a former OPP officer who pled guilty to a charge of dangerous driving causing death, following a collision in which the other driver was killed.
The plaintiffs are the immediate family of the deceased driver of the other vehicle, who sued Mr. Storey for negligence arising out of the death of that family member. Following the settlement of the civil action Mr. Storey made a series of online posts on his personal Facebook page regarding the collision and the Veneruzzo family. Mr. Storey’s Facebook profile settings make his posts accessible to the public.
Based on the Facebook posts, the plaintiffs brought the action for defamation, intentional infliction of mental distress and intrusion upon seclusion.
The defendant, Mr. Storey, states that his posts were a personal expression regarding a matter of significant public interest. The plaintiffs’ position is that the posts are not matters of public interest.
Justice Shaw cites the following, in his finding that this did not meet the test of being in the public interest:
There are three cases that I have reviewed that have considered the meaning of “public interest” in s. 137.1: 1704604 Ontario Ltd. v. Pointes Protection Association et al., 2016 ONSC 2884,a decision of Gareau J.; Able Translations Inc. v. Express International Translation Inc., 2016 ONSC 6785; and Platnick v. Bent, 2016 ONSC 7340 (both decisions of Dunphy J.). In all three cases, the communications in question were held to relate to matters of public interest.
Shaw J. goes on to say:
The posts which criticize the Veneruzzo family members are highly personal comments about private individuals. The posts are no broader than that. The Veneruzzo’s are not public figures. there are no public interest implications in Mr. Storey’s allegations …although notoriety may well have attached to the collision and to the death of Ms. Veneruzzo and to the ensuing criminal and civil proceedings, these were events which interested the public, not events which were in the public interest.