HUFF v ZUK, 2019 ABQB 691


3.65: Permission of Court to amendment before or after close of pleadings
13.7: Pleadings: other requirements

Case Summary

A Trial had been held in this matter which included claims by the Plaintiff that the Defendant had defamed him.  Some of the impugned statements raised by the Plaintiff during the Trial had not been included in the Statement of Claim. At the close of the Trial, the Defendant’s counsel submitted that he need not address these statements. Counsel relied on Rule 13.7 which requires that the particulars of defamation be pled.

Nixon J. noted that the purpose of Rule 13.7 in the context of defamation is to ensure that a Defendant has adequate notice of alleged defamatory statements. Moreover, the overall intent of the Rules is to ensure that allegations are sufficiently pled prior to Trial. A Defendant should know the case he is required to meet in order to prepare a defence and avoid surprise at Trial. However, Nixon J. also noted that amendments to a Statement of Claim can be made even at the end of Trial pursuant to Rule 3.65. The key question a Court will consider is whether a Defendant will suffer prejudice if the amendments are allowed.

The Court ruled that the Defendant would not suffer prejudice if certain statements not included in the pleadings were considered by the Court. Some of the statements had been included in the agreed exhibits prior to the Trial so the Defendant was made aware of them and addressed them.

The Court ruled that other certain statements not pled that would cause prejudice to the Defendant if they were considered by the Court. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant had made defamatory statements in a letter of complaint to the Alberta Dental Association and College. Formal complaints to professional disciplinary bodies are subject to absolute privilege, and it was therefore likely that the Defendant would have amended his Statement of Defence to include this defence had the allegations been properly included in the Statement of Claim. Nixon J. ruled that the allegations regarding the letter of complaint would not be considered by the Court.

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