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B.C. blogger ordered to pay $30K for online complaints in doctor defamation suit

Kelowna Law Courts. Global News

A Kelowna blogger who was unhappy with a breast augmentation surgery that offered uneven results learned that sounding off online can have costly consequences, according to a Supreme Court of B.C. decision posted Aug. 25.

Rosa Campagna Deck was ordered this week to pay Kelowna surgeon Dr. Brian Peterson $30,000 for defamation, and has to remove a series of online posts and reviews she made that cast aspersion on his work. Peterson was also awarded costs for legal action.

“While internet postings in the nature of reviews of restaurants and services are the norm in today’s world, defamatory comments dressed up as reviews that are not factual or do not qualify as fair comment are subject to the laws of defamation,” Justice Gary Weatherill wrote.

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“Here, the broad thrust of the posts was that the plaintiff made mistakes during the first surgery, took a ‘couldn’t care less’ approach to the defendant’s concerns when confronted with the results, and that the defendant was forced to pay another surgeon to have another surgery to correct the problem.”

Weatherill said in his view, a reasonable person knowing the proven background facts could not honestly express the opinions set out in the social media posts.

“Moreover, the posts contain defamatory statements of fact that cannot be justified. The plaintiff is thus liable for her libel,” he wrote.

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The conflict between the two began after Peterson performed the first breast augmentation surgery for Deck on Nov. 3, 2015, according to the court decision.

Deck was unhappy from the get-go, according to the court document.

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She had decided to get the augmentation in August that year. Part of the process is getting a physical, and that’s when Peterson learned that Deck had a concave chest, resulting in a depressed sternum and asymmetry between the left and right sides.

Peterson told Deck it may complicate her surgery, but two differently sized implants may help address the issue. In the end, Deck opted for two implants of the same size, according to the document.

Immediately after, Deck started to express her concerns, calling and texting repeatedly.

Her concern was that her left breast was higher than the right breast and the lower half of the left breast was quite bruised.

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In two follow-up appointments, Peterson said the concave chest may have been a complication, but he suspected the left implant would eventually drop into place. She was asked to return in three months.

She did and was still dissatisfied.

That day, according to the document, she met with another surgeon who offered a similar solution, but also recommended that she go to the two differently sized implants.

In the end, she chose the other surgeon despite the fact that she’d have to pay for new implants. Peterson wouldn’t pay, because he said that he didn’t make a mistake.

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She ended up being happy with the new surgery. But in November 2018, she posted negative reviews on her personal website and on Google Reviews.

Among other things, she wrote that her experience with Peterson was an “anxiety-filled nightmare” and that she left the “operating table worse than when (she) initially laid down for (her) procedure.”

She also claimed that she was ill-informed by the doctor and that the results were unexpected, though she used much more strident terms.

Peterson said the statements in these posts were defamatory and asked her to take them down, to no avail.

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He launched the defamation case on March 19, 2019.

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