Air Georgian says it will appeal an Ontario court decision to dismiss its $10 million libel suit against a former pilot who wrote a book about his time with the airline. The National Post is reporting that Justice Shaun O’Brien ruled the suit against Alan Eugeni would have a chilling effect on the discussion of air safety. “Mr. Eugeni spoke out on a matter of significant public importance,” the judge concluded in her 16-page written decision released this week. “He caused limited harm to Air Georgian with his self-published book, but was silenced by a much more intimidating litigant … I consider the balance to weigh in favour of protecting the expression.” She made her ruling under an Ontario law designed to prevent litigation from being used to quell public discussion. After Air Georgian launched the suit, Amazon stopped selling the book and Eugeni pulled down his own Web site. He sold a total of 247 books.
Eugeni was among several former Air Georgian pilots who spoke publicly about their safety concerns. Eugeni self published his book, The Next Plane Crash, in 2017. The National Post interviewed him and others for an investigative series on the airline’s safety record in 2017 and the airline threatened to sue the newspaper and one other pilot but only named Eugeni. The judge was critical of Eugeni’s work and determined that some of the assertions he made in the book were contradicted by evidence submitted by Air Georgian. “His wording at times is provocative and sensationalized,” said O’Brien. “While Mr. Eugeni’s focus was on telling his own story, he appears to have made minimal efforts to verify his serious allegations.”