Steven Galloway, the bestselling author who lost his job in a #MeToo scandal before the term became ubiquitous, has won a key legal battle in his lawsuit against his accuser.
The woman accused Mr. Galloway, the former head of the University of British Columbia’s creative-writing program, of sexual assault and harassment. Mr. Galloway is suing the woman – a former student in the program – for defamation, along with more than 20 other people, including UBC faculty and other Canadian authors.
His accuser, known in court documents as A.B. (and commonly referred to as M.C. for Main Complainant, as her identity is protected under a court order), is trying to have the lawsuit thrown out under B.C.’s new anti-SLAPP legislation. SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuits against public participation and the law is aimed at protecting people from being silenced on matters of public interest.
In a hearing on that matter, Mr. Galloway’s lawyers had asked for a number of documents – including e-mail correspondence with some of the other people named in Mr. Galloway’s lawsuit. Then a judge ruled that A.B. had to produce many of those documents. A.B. was appealing that ruling. This week, a three-member panel upheld the original ruling.
“In the circumstances the documents were relevant,” the judgment states.
The case dates back to November, 2015, when Mr. Galloway was suspended because of “serious allegations” made against him. After a months-long investigation, retired B.C. Supreme Court justice Mary Ellen Boyd concluded on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Galloway had not committed sexual assault. She did find that he had had an inappropriate affair with A.B.
Mr. Galloway was subsequently fired by UBC for an irreparable breach of trust.
UBC later paid Mr. Galloway more than $240,000 in damages after it was found that the university had violated his privacy rights and damaged his reputation.
Then in October, 2018, Mr. Galloway filed his lawsuit, arguing that he was defamed by false accusations of rape, sexual assault and physical assault. “The defamation began with false statements by A.B. to several other defendants, who recklessly repeated and asserted the truth of the accusations both within UBC and publicly on the internet, including on Twitter,” his filing argues.
Mr. Galloway’s lawsuit says the allegations continued, despite the findings of the Boyd report that concluded the allegations of rape, sexual assault and assault were unsubstantiated. “The defamatory statements were devastating to the plaintiff both personally and in his professional career,” his lawsuit states.
In May, 2019, A.B. applied to have Mr. Galloway’s lawsuit dismissed under the Protection of Public Participation Act (PPPA), B.C.'s anti-SLAPP legislation.
If she is successful in her application, Mr. Galloway’s lawsuit would be dismissed.
A.B.'s appeal was heard in January.
“The PPPA should be interpreted in a way that encourages rather than discourages the reporting of sexualized violence,” David Wotherspoon, one of A.B.’s lawyers, argued in court.
In their filing leading up to that hearing, Mr. Galloway’s lawyers argued, “If there is any hope of a person’s reputation ever recovering, vindication of the true facts by a court is vital.”
This week, a three-judge panel upheld the original ruling, so A.B. is now compelled to turn over those documents.
“In my view, in the circumstances here, the prejudice to A.B. is outweighed by [the reputational] interests and the potential prejudice to Steven Galloway if denied the document disclosure he seeks on the dismissal application,” Chief Justice Robert Bauman ruled. Justices David Tysoe and Patrice Abrioux agreed.
The trial in Mr. Galloway’s defamation suit had originally been scheduled to begin this June. But the anti-SLAPP matter will have to be dealt with first.
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