A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered a Vancouver woman to pay her ex-boyfriend more than $200,000 after finding she had damaged his reputation using Instagram and other websites.
Justice Elliot Myers made the ruling on Sept. 25, but the ruling was not published until Tuesday.
Brandon Rook, a Vancouver resource industry executive and business consultant, brought the case against Noelle Halcrow, a former Parfums Christian Dior employee and self-described social media influencer, after she began attacking her ex online following a pair of breakups about a year apart.
Halcrow’s posts alleged Rook was an out-of-control drunk, a cheater and carried STDs.
In his ruling, Myers concluded that Halcrow “mounted a campaign against Mr. Rook that was as relentless as it was extensive,” and that “she was motivated by malice.”
Rook and Halcrow dated briefly in August 2015, but Rook broke off the relationship, the ruling states. They began dating again in February of the following year, until Rook again broke off the relationship in August 2016, according to the ruling.
That is when the defamatory posts, detailed at length in the ruling, began in earnest.
Halcrow did not testify or present any evidence at trial, claiming instead that someone else had made the posts attacking Rook — an argument the judge rejected.
“The evidence is clear and compelling that Ms. Halcrow did, in fact, put the posts on the web sites,” wrote Myers.
Myers pointed to expert evidence which showed that the posts had originated from the same IP address where the social media accounts had been created and were composed in a writing style that matched Halcrow’s.
He also relied on text messages she had sent to Rook talking about taking the posts down and threatening to put up new ones.
“The email and text exchanges between the parties clearly show that the postings were made out of spite and animosity and for the purpose of injuring the plaintiff.”
Finally, the judge said there was no evidence anyone else would either have the motivation to attack Rook in such a manner or know the personal details contained in the posts.
“The courts have recognized that the internet can be used as an exceedingly effective tool to harm reputations. This is one such case,” wrote Myers.
“From the number of comments and viewings on many of the postings, it is clear that they received wide reading.”
In determining the damages to be awarded to Rook, Myers noted that the amount must be high enough to communicate the severity of harm to the plaintiff’s reputation while noting that aggravated damages can be appropriate in cases motivated by spite and malice.
For comparison, he also cited several other cases of online defamation in which the damages ranged from $115,000 to $410,000.
Myers awarded Rook $175,000 in general damages and $25,000 in aggravated damages. Meyers also awarded Rook more than $38,000 to compensate for what Rook had spent hiring reputation consultants to help get the defamatory posts off the internet, as well as court costs.
The ruling also came with a court order banning anyone from reposting any of the defamatory messages online.