Abbotsford (With files from 24 Hours) -It has been said, “watch what you post on social media, it could come back to bite you”. In this case, it did.
An Abbotsford woman’s Facebook posts about her next-door neighbour have cost her more than $65,000 after a B.C. Supreme Court ruling issued Wednesday.
Katherine Anne Van Nes defamed the neighbour — a middle-school music teacher — by implying on social media that he “was a pedophile and was unfit to teach,” wrote Justice Anthony Saunders in his decision.
“An accusation of pedophilic behaviour must be the single most effective means of destroying a teacher’s reputation and career,” Saunders continued in his decision.
The plaintiff, Doug Pritchard, was awarded $50,000 in general damages for defamation, $15,000 in punitive damages, an additional $2,500 for a nuisance claim that appeared to be the catalyst for the Facebook remarks, plus costs.
The conflict began after Pritchard’s wife documented Van Nes’s dog defecating on the Pritchard property through cell phone photos and videos, in order to make a complaint to the municipality.
The thread was eventually deleted approximately 27 hours after it first appeared, but Pritchard testified that the remarks made him feel as though he “lost the trust of parents and students” and that community members commented that they thought differently of him as a result.
He reduced his involvement in the school’s music programming and testified he lost his love for teaching.
Saunders found that Van Nes was not only liable for her own comments, but those of her friends and the re-publication of them to the principal.