Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – College of Physicians and Surgeons – Physicians and Surgeons – Code of conduct – Defamation – Judicial review – Disclosure – Qualified privilege
Wang v. British Columbia Medical Assn.,  B.C.J. No. 833, 2014 BCCA 162, British Columbia Court of Appeal, April 30, 2014, I.T. Donald, M.V. Newbury and N.J. Garson JJ.A.
The plaintiff, a member of the British Columbia Medical Association (“BCMA”) Board, was of the opinion that the Board was not adequately serving its members and that it was not open and transparent with respect to its decision-making processes. On various occasions, she expressed her beliefs and published confidential information about the Board’s private meetings to an internet chat room and to other non-Board member physicians. At a subsequent Board meeting, it was alleged that she had breached the confidentiality provisions in the Code of Conduct, and the Board decided to refer the issue to a Code of Conduct Committee for investigation. A motion was passed at that meeting for a discussion “ex camera” so that the fact of the matter could be communicated to the membership. The president of the BCMA then sent a letter out to all members informing them that there would be a Code of Conduct investigation into the plaintiff’s alleged breaches. The plaintiff claimed that the letter and other communications were defamatory.
The trial judge determined that the letter was defamatory, but that the communication occurred on an occasion of qualified privilege, and was not made out of malice. The Court of Appeal agreed and found that the investigation was a matter of legitimate concern to the membership, and the letter did not go beyond what was warranted in the situation. The occasion of qualified privilege arose from a relationship between the Board and the members of the BCMA which gave rise to a duty or interest on the part of the Board to communicate the fact of the alleged breach of confidentiality and investigation to the membership, and the corresponding interest in the membership to receive the information.
This case was digested by Kara L. Hill of Harper Grey LLP. If you would like to discuss this case further, please feel free to contact her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or review her biography at http://www.harpergrey.com.
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