Ronak Shah says new tort could have implications for business

February 25, 2020

Senior associate Ronak Shah has spoken to Law Times about Ontario’s new privacy tort, saying the ruling Yenovkian v. Gulian could have implications for “publishers and public statements by businesses”.

In Yenovkian, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recognized the privacy tort of “publicity placing a person in a false light” for the first time in Canada.

The Law Times article uses Torys’ bulletin “Ontario recognizes new privacy tort” to describe the landmark case, in which a father engaged in an abusive “cyberbullying campaign” containing serious, but false, allegations while also negatively portraying the mother and her family, among other acts.  

An excerpt from the Torys bulletin describing the new tort is below.

U.S. law has long recognized four separate torts relating to invasion of privacy. Prior to 2012, Canadian common law had only recognized one of those privacy torts on a very narrow basis. In Yenovkian, the Court accepted the formulation of the tort of “publicity placing a person in false light” as it currently exists in American law, following the recent, gradual adoption of other privacy torts in Ontario.

The new tort will be established where a person is placed before the public in a false light, if:

  • the false light in which the other was placed would be highly offensive to a reasonable person; and
  • the actor had knowledge of or acted in reckless disregard as to the falsity of the publicized matter and the false light in which the other would be placed.

Ronak discussed with Law Times how commercial lawyers are still dissecting how this new tort might interact with things like class action law.

“Not only on the internet—but also within the companies’ public announcements and things like that—we want to make sure that they are portraying the person correctly: As they are, and not in a false light,” Ronak said.

“It’s making sure statements about investigations, departures of officers or employees, are done in a way that is correct and… that they have processes in place that actually vet these kinds of statements.”

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