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Judge tosses $6-million lawsuit against Guelph couple over social media comments

The judge agreed it was a SLAPP lawsuit with little merit, meant to silence critics
20171024 Guelph Medical Imaging Sign KA
Kenneth Armstrong/GuelphToday file photo

The $6-million lawsuit against a Guelph couple that stemmed from a series of tweets was tossed out by the judge on Tuesday.

The lawsuit by Probhash Mondal and his company Guelph Medical Imaging (GMI) was seeking $5 million in general damages and $1 million in punitive damages, aggravated and exemplary damages against Stephanie Marie Evans-Bitten and Kathryn Evans-Bitten after Stephanie tweeted statements that he believed were defamatory and libellous.

The couple filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed because it was a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuit, which is a lawsuit with little merit filed to intimidate and silence critics.

The judge agreed.

“He got it back as good as he gave it, and got wet in the process,” said Justice Edward Morgan said in his written decision Tuesday dismissing the lawsuit.

Morgan said Mondal “jumped into the turbulent river of Twitter commentary with some vulgarly worded observations that touched a nerve with the defendants.”

Also dismissed was a lawsuit against Ross Kirkconnell and Michelle Smith, the executive director and his assistant of the Guelph Family Health Team, regarding emails they sent to doctors and board members that shared the tweets in question.

In its statement of claim filed last year, GMI accused the couple of posting defamatory and libellous statements.

The central tweet in question, on June 11, 2021, came from Stephanie’s @ScurvyCompanion Twitter account and said: “This #PrideMonth2021, I want to remind #Guelph leaders that gay residents in the city are being forced to seek healthcare diagnostics in other cities because Guelph Medical Imaging is owned and lead by a man who thinks and tweets this stuff:”

The tweet was deleted a few days after it was posted. In 2021, she posted, “the CEO of GMI also runs 'UBIMICO' and likes to post homophobic content like this."

“In the context of Twitter, there is every reason to believe that what Ms. Evans-Bitten, Mr. Kirkconnell and Ms. Smith doled back to him was fair comment,” said Morgan adding that Twitter is a “rhetorically harsh speech environment whose very pervasive harshness reduces the seriousness with which it is taken.”

“There is nothing indefensible in the defendants’ communications about Mr. Mondal’s tweets; and there is nothing said by the defendants that, in context, is harsher than, or is an overreaction to, the language of Mr. Mondal’s tweets themselves,” said Morgan. “What the communications in issue amount to is a set of polar opposite views on cultural politics, gender politics, and Politics with a capital ‘P.’”

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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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