An Alberta judge has reserved her decision over who should pay legal costs in a successful defamation lawsuit by former journalist Arthur Kent against Canada’s largest newspaper chain.
The long and bitter litigation began in 2008 after a negative newspaper article was written about the one-time TV correspondent while he was running for political office. Kent won the lawsuit earlier this year against Postmedia and one of its columnists.
Kent, who got the nickname “Scud Stud” while reporting for NBC during the Persian Gulf war, was awarded $200,000 in damages for an unflattering piece written by Don Martin. He received an additional $61,000 in interest.
Martin portrayed Kent as an out-of-control egomaniac who was a “dud” on the election trail.
Kent has asked Justice Jo’Anne Strekaf for $1.2 million in legal costs for his eight years in court.
Postmedia lawyer Brent Mescall, in arguing against awarding any costs to Kent, said those involved should foot their own legal bills.
He said Kent was only partially successful in his case against the media defendants. Mescall said Kent had sought a total of $6.5 million in damages and was only awarded a fraction of that.
Mescall said the ruling didn’t find “evidence of malice” in the writing of the article, or its publication, and many of the columnist’s comments fall into the category of opinion.
“It’s within the context of these substantial allegations that the complainant’s claim must be assessed and this court’s decision on costs made,” Mescall said.
“The fact is, despite the plaintiff’s objection, the defendants were successful in many of the key arguments made at the time.”
Mescall also noted that the $1.2 million in legal fees claimed by Kent include $304,000 for legal action against four individuals — including party insider Alan Hallman and former strategist Rod Love — that was dismissed by the court. Postmedia shouldn’t be responsible for such costs, he said.
Kent’s lawyer, Michael Bates, said his client should be compensated for his costs above and beyond the damages awarded.
“This isn’t any defamation case. This is a case where you did find that there was increased damages warranted to Mr. Kent, which means you found there was increased harm to his reputation,” said Bates.
“We talk ordinarily in layman’s terms about the concept of a reputation, someone’s trustworthiness, their ability to be relied upon. You can spend an entire lifetime quite literally building that and lose it in a second.”
In her June written ruling, Strekaf said Kent deserved more than nominal damages. She ruled that while the article did not accuse Kent of any illegal or immoral acts, it characterized him as an egotistical, politically naive, arrogant candidate whose campaign was in disarray.
“He suffered substantial distress and damage as a result of the defamatory factual statements in the article.”
Strekaf did not give a date for her decision.