Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Businessman wins $1.5 M libel award against Toronto Star

2001 article implied Peter Grant was exploiting friendship with Mike Harris to speed golf course approval

I find it odd that news of this judgement was on page A15, given that $1.5 million is not far off the largest libel award in Ontario history. That was the $1.6 million awarded to former crown attorney Casey Hill in 1992. The Defendants were the Church of Scientology and lawyer Morris Manning. (Adjusted for inflation, that award would be worth just over $2 million today.)

There is no indication whether the Star will appeal
; it's likely they have not made that decision yet. I didn’t spot the article in the Star website’s main menu, but you can find it by searching for “libel.” Some excerpts:

HAILEYBURY, ONT.–A jury has awarded nearly $1.5 million in damages against the Star, finding that the newspaper libelled a wealthy Northern Ontario businessman when it published an article about his controversial plans to expand his personal golf course.

The jury of three men and three women, drawn from the area surrounding this town 160 kilometres north of North Bay, last night awarded $400,000 in general damages to Peter Grant and $50,000 to his company, Grant Forest Products Inc., a major local employer.

The jury also awarded Grant $25,000 in aggravated damages and $1 million in punitive damages. Superior Court Justice Paul Rivard had instructed the jury that punitive damages were meant to deter others from outrageous or reprehensible conduct.

Grant and his company sued the Star over a June 23, 2001 article headlined "Cottagers teed off over golf course; Long-time Harris backer awaits Tory nod on plan."

They say it falsely implied that Grant was exploiting his ties to the then-Mike Harris provincial government to try to manipulate the approval process for his proposed golf-course expansion on Twin Lakes, near here.

But lawyer Paul Schabas, arguing for the Star, told the jury that the article by senior writer Bill Schiller is a fair and accurate account of a matter of broad public interest.

Grant's plans to buy 10.5 hectares of Crown land and expand by 10 times the size of his Frog's Breath golf course sparked strong opposition from neighbouring cottagers worried about its environmental impact, he said. It was later approved in 2004.

1 comment:

Sophie said...

To papers like the Star, it is just a cost of doing business.