Browne j

5.2: When something is relevant and material
5.25: Appropriate questions and objections

Case Summary

The Plaintiff law firm commenced a defamation Action against the Defendant media corporation and two individual employees of the media corporation following the publication of three editorials. Master Schlosser granted the Plaintiff’s Application compelling the Defendant newspaper columnist to answer questions that would reveal the identity of his source. The Defendants appealed.

Browne J. referred to Rules 5.2 and 5.25 and leading authorities, and noted that the Defendant was only required to answer questions that were relevant and material. When considering what was relevant and material, Justice Browne noted prior leading appellate authority which provided that “relevance is primarily determined by the pleadings, whereas materiality relates to whether the information can help, directly or indirectly, to prove a fact in issue”.

Justice Browne reviewed the pleadings and evidence and determined that information regarding the source’s identity was not relevant and material. Whether the source acted with malice was irrelevant to whether the Defendants had acted with malice as there was no indication that the Defendant columnist was aware of, or influenced by his source’s motives. Additionally, the reliability of the source was not relevant as it was not related to the reliability of the allegations in the Affidavit. Because of the Court’s conclusions on relevance and materiality, it was unnecessary to consider the further issue of journalist-source privilege. Browne J. granted the Appeal.

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