In Jacqueline Catherine May v Rebecca Elizabeth
Guzzo1. a teacher was awarded damages for
defamatory statements made against her. The statements were made by
Ms. Guzzo, the defendant, to the principal at the school where Ms.
May was a teacher. Ms. Guzzo alleged that Ms. May was involved in
criminal activity, including drug use and permitting minors to
smoke marijuana at her home. Due to the seriousness of the
defamatory remarks, the fact that they were made to the principal
of the school, and that Ms. Guzzo refused to retract her remarks,
the Court awarded Ms. May $10,000 in general damages.
Ms. May was a teacher employed by the Brant Haldimand Norfolk
Catholic District School Board. Her son, Mr. Bastarache, was
involved in a common law relationship with Ms. Guzzo and had twin
boys. Ms. Guzzo and Mr. Bastarache were involved in an acrimonious
litigation proceeding for custody of their children.
Ms. May provided an affidavit in support of her son's
application for custody in which she stated that she had witnessed
her son experience emotional and mental abuse at the hands of Ms.
Guzzo. Her affidavit also stated that she had "...seen Ms.
Guzzo use marijuana on a regular basis, allegedly for pain
A month after Ms. May provided her affidavit to the court, Ms.
Guzzo called Ms. May's principal and reported her concern about
Ms. May's alleged drug use and the fact that she had witnessed
minors smoking marijuana in her home but failed to report the
incident. The principal did not accept Ms. Guzzo's statements
as being valid but she did advise that a report would have to be
placed in Ms. May's personnel file.
Ms. May asked Ms. Guzzo to retract her statements but she
refused. In fact, Ms. Guzzo's response to the request
threatened further contact with the principal: "...I will be
calling with the boy who was here when you were smoking with us to
have him give a statement...."3.
The Court's Decision
Ms. May brought a civil suit against Ms. Guzzo seeking damages
for the defamatory remarks made. Ms. May denied the validity of the
statements made by Ms. Guzzo. She acknowledged that her principal
was not accepting of Ms. Guzzo's remarks but stating her
concern that the defamatory remarks were made in her workplace and
that a report was placed in her file.
Ms. May's evidence was the Ms. Guzzo was manipulative and
believed that her motive for making the statements was to
intimidate her in connection with the ongoing child custody
litigation. Ms. May also provided further evidence of other
defamatory remarks made by Ms. Guzzo in the context of the custody
litigation. For example, Ms. Guzzo alleged that parents of students
in her class had made threatening calls to the school principal
about Ms. May's inappropriate conduct.
The suit was undefended by Ms. Guzzo as she was noted in
default. As a result, the Dependant was deemed to have admitted to
the truth of all the facts stated in Ms. May's claim. The case
proceeded to trial for an assessment of damages.
In its assessment of damages, the court outlined the factors
established by case law which must be considered,
the plaintiff's position and standing in the
the nature and seriousness of the defamatory statements;
the mode and extent of publication;
the absence or refusal of a retraction or apology;
the possible effects of the statements upon the plaintiff's
the motivation and conduct of the defendant.4.
The judge also referred to section 16 of the
Libeland Slander Act, which states that
"slander affecting professional reputation does not require a
plaintiff to prove special damages".5.
Applying these factors to the case, the Court considered the
facts that: the defamatory remarks made were alleging criminal
activity; that the remarks were made to Ms. May's employer;
that they were made with malice; and that Ms. Guzzo refused to
retract the remarks. Consequently, the judge awarded Ms. May
general damages in the amount of $10,000. Punitive damages were not
An important take-away from this case is to keep meticulous
records of everything when facing a situation where defamatory
remarks are being made. In Ms. May's case, she had written
evidence that she had requested a retraction from Ms. Guzzo and
that it had been refused. In the end, the Court put great weight on
Ms. Guzzo's refusal to retract the defamatory remarks and
factored it into the decision to award damages.
It's not often that our little blog intersects with such titanic struggles as the U.S. presidential race – and by using the term "titanic" I certainly don't mean to suggest that anything disastrous is in the future.
J.J. v. C.C., is an interesting case in which the court held that an automotive garage owes a duty to minor children to secure the vehicles on the premises by locking the cars and safely storing the car keys...
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).