Weaver v Corcoran 2017 BCCA 160

The appellants submitted the judge erred in finding them jointly liable in defamation for four articles written by three different authors employed by the same publication over a period of approximately two months. They said she erred in analysing the meaning of the articles in combination, in finding the articles referred to the plaintiff and in finding the defence of fair comment was not available.

The BCCA found that where separate publications are pleaded as being independently defamatory based on their literal or inferential meaning, the meaning of each should be determined independently, absent referability or other inextricable linkage, and joint liability should not be imposed unless it is pleaded and evidence in support is presented or admissions are made.

The judge at first instance erred in analysing whether the articles were defamatory in combination and in imposing joint liability. With the exception of one article, there was no evidence of collaboration or referability. A new trial is needed for the necessary analysis to be undertaken and findings of fact to be made.