Talk show host Matthias “Matt” Peltier Jr. and West Indies Communication Enterprises (Q95 FM) have been ordered to pay Dominica’s Labour Commissioner, Dr. Matthew LeBlanc, EC$120,000.00 in general and aggravated damages, plus interest on the damages at the statutory rate from the date of the judgment and prescribed cost in the sum of EC$7,875.00.
The decision was handed down on February 5th, 2020 by High Court Master Ermin Moise.
Dr. LeBlanc, through his lawyer, Heather Felix-Evans, had written to Peltier in 2015 asking for a retraction and an apology about what he claimed were “offensive comments” aired on the “Hot Seat” with Peltier as the host, on February 2nd, 2015.
The discussion was a report addressed to the Prime Minister allegedly written by (the Claimant) Dr. LeBlanc.
The report touched on certain issues raised about the issuance of visas in the Labour department where the Claimant served as Labour Commissioner.
An unsigned copy of that report was leaked and had been posted on social media.
Peltier and Q95FM did not enter a defense and so judgment in default was entered against them on May 22nd, 2015. The hearing of the assessment of damages took place on July 17th, 2019.
In her decision, Master Moise, in looking at the gravity of the allegation, stated, “There can be no doubt that the allegations levied against the claimant are grave. He is the Labour Commissioner of Dominica. His duties involved the issuance of visas and permits for the purpose of foreigners coming into Dominica to work. By alleging that he was willing to accept payments for the fast-tracking of visa requests and permits would seriously undermine the integrity of the office which he holds and brings his character and professional reputation into disrepute.”
This broadcast, she said, was widely circulated…and not only were the words published during the programme but were rebroadcast a number of times by the 2nd defendant (Q95FM) who “refused to offer an apology to the claimant upon request.”
She said the claimant, who states that he is a lay preacher and who ministers in a number of churches across the island, reported that “for a time, members of his church or churches where he attended, expressed reservation about his character. He was embarrassed and seriously affected by the slander of his reputation.”
“I am not of the view that exemplary damages are to be awarded in this case. I would, therefore, award the global figure of EC$120,000.00 in damages, inclusive of aggravated damages to the claimant, interest on the damages at the statutory rate from the date of the judgment and prescribed cost in the sum of EC$7,875.00.”
Cara Shillingford represented Peltier and Q95FM after judgment in default was entered against them.