A Surrey woman being sued by Surrey Animal Hospital for defamation has filed a response in court claiming defences of fair comment and qualified privilege.
The veterinary hospital filed its civil claim in August against Victoria Veira, seeking general, special, aggravated and punitive damages against her, an interlocutory and permanent injunction to restrain her from further publication of what it claims to be defamatory statements made on social media, and a court order requiring her to permanently remove the statements.
The case stems from Veira attending the clinic in Newton in March to get her dog neutered, and subsequent visits. According to the notice of civil claim, she then posted a series of videos on TikTok that led to this lawsuit. The claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster, states one of the videos had been viewed more than 800,000 times. The allegedly defamatory statements, which Surrey Animal Hospital states are also “false” and “malicious,” were according to the plaintiff disseminated over the internet from April 2, 2022 to June 26, 2022.
It claims Veira knew TikTok has an “immense reach” and published the allegedly defamatory statements “with repeated consistency for the predominant purpose of injuring not only the plaintiff, but also its staff members, owner and associated individuals.
“Accordingly,” the civil claim alleges, “the defendant is guilty of reprehensible, high-handed, spiteful, malicious and oppressive conduct” for which the court, it adds, would be justified in imposing a “substantial” penalty.
Veira filed a response to the civil claim in October, claiming the videos she posted to TikTok are not defamatory because statements she made about the veterinary hospital “are substantially true or are the reasonably-held opinion of Ms. Veira.” Her response also states she “denies maliciously posting any videos to TikTok with the knowledge that, or reckless indifference as to whether, the videos contained false information” and that she “denies seeking to damage” Surrey Animal Hospital “in any way.”
“Posting videos to TikTok is a normal part of Ms. Veira’s daily life, and Ms. Veira has no control over whether one video she posts to TikTok is viewed more times than any other video she posts to TikTok,” her response states.
Veira’s response claims she should be entitled to special costs, alleging the plaintiff has “with an improper motive, intentionally and strategically planned to damage the reputation of Ms. Veira in the eyes of the public by making false claims against her and without giving Ms. Veira any opportunity to provide her version of facts to the public.”
The hospital then filed a reply in court in November, stating that “before the incident with the defendant, the plaintiff had a Google rating of 2.9. As a result of the incident with the defendant, the plaintiff’s rating has now been reduced to 2.1.”
None of the claims from either side of this case have yet been proven or disproven in a court of law. The case has not yet gone to trial.