Law Times

March 17, 2014

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Page 2 March 17, 2014 • Law TiMes NEWS Lawyer sues ex-employer's counsel over comments about dismissal suit n associate who sued a Toronto lawyer for allegedly firing her without "a scintilla of mild misconduct" has now launched a libel lawsuit against her former employer and her lawyer for comments made in a June 2013 Law Times article. Golnaz Simaei, who worked as an associate for lawyer Julie Hannaford, is accusing her for- mer employer of "intentional or, alternatively, negligent inflic- tion of nervous shock" through what she described in her origi- nal statement of claim as a toxic work environment. None of the allegations have been proven in court. Aer Hannaford's counsel, Mel Solmon, told Law Times his client believed Simaei's allegations were false and "scan- dalous," Simaei sued Solmon and Hannaford for $3 million each for libel and "injurious falsehood." She's also seeking an additional $100,000 from each of them in punitive damages. In a June 2013 e-mail to Law Times, Solmon said Simaei made the allegations "knowing she had an absolute privilege concern- ing false statements set out in the statement of claim, and she knows that her claims cannot be supported." ose comments have dam- aged her reputation and caused her to lose business, Simaei al- leged in the libel lawsuit. None of the allegations in that case have been proven in court. "e statement made by Sol- mon on behalf of himself and his client infer that all of the al- legations made by the plaintiff in her statement of claim are nonsensical, false, and more- over, that the plaintiff knows that and is a liar," the libel law- suit states. "e statements also infer that the plaintiff is 'abusing' the judicial process for ulterior mo- tives contrary to her obligations as a member of a bar." In her claim, Simaei alleges the statements suggest she lacks integrity, is an extortionist, in- tends to mislead the court, and that despite being a lawyer, she "makes a mockery of the court's processes." e defendants knew mak- ing the statements would leave her unemployable in the family law bar, the lawsuit claims. "ey have done so, and the plaintiff remains unemployed," her state- ment of claim reads. Simaei has now opened her own practice, Simaei Law. In his statement of defence, Solmon said he didn't "make negative statements intended to disparage the reputation of the plaintiff." "e statements made in the June 11, 2013 e-mail were made on an occasion of qualified priv- ilege and were not made out of malice," his statement of defence states. "e statements were reason- ably necessary in the circum- stances and were made in re- sponse to a request from a news journalist to ensure a balanced news story." Since Hannaford and her firm hadn't filed a full statement of de- fence at the time of the Law Times article, the pleadings would have only told one side of the story, Solmon's defence asserts. Solmon's statement of de- fence also says his main inten- tion in his e-mail to Law Times was in fact to discourage the newspaper from publishing the story as Hannaford hadn't yet filed a full defence. His e-mail to Law Times said the right forum to deal with the matter was in court, according to the defence, which suggests the article took his comments out of context. Solmon had said Hannaford wasn't able to file a full statement of defence at the time because the plaintiff 's lawyer hadn't pro- vided documents mentioned in the pleading in a timely manner. In response to this defence, Simaei's statement of claim not- ed she's relying on "the entirety of the e-mail exchange" with Law Times and the "entirety of the Law Times article." It continues: "If the purpose of [Solmon's] e-mail was to pre- vent the article from being pub- lished, the e-mail from the de- fendant Solmon would not have contained its libelous portions." Solmon didn't respond to a Law Times request for comment regarding the libel lawsuit. Ac- cording to Josephine Comegna, Simaei's counsel, Hannaford argued a motion in January to strike a significant portion of Si- maei's statement of claim in the wrongful dismissal action. e court hasn't rendered a decision on the motion. In the original lawsuit, Si- maei accused Hannaford of creating "a reign of terror" while she worked as her associate un- til March 2013 when she was "precipitously terminated by e-mail while returning from va- cation." e statement of claim de- tailed Hannaford's alleged mis- treatment of Simaei, which included yelling, isolating her from clients and other employ- ees, and at times dictating her correspondence with others. At one point in 2009, accord- ing to the statement of claim, she resigned from her job aer an office clerk and her boyfriend were "permitted by Hannaford to bully and harass" her. According to Simaei's state- ment of claim, she eventually returned to work for Hannaford. "When the plaintiff resigned, Hannaford cried over the phone, pleading for the plaintiff to change her decision," Simaei's statement of claim states. In a temporary defence filed at the time of the original Law Times article, Hannaford denied Simaei's claims, calling them "ir- relevant allegations." "e defendants state that the statement of claim is an improper pleading, containing scandalous allegations, frivo- lous and vexatious claims, evi- dence, unsubstantiated causes of action and irrelevant allega- tions," the statement of defence, signed on May 30, asserted. "e pleading is an abuse of process and was designed to in- timidate." 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