Internet defamation of character is on the rise, especially with the growth in popularity of Facebook, Twitter and Google. Alex Nelson is a Brisbane Defamation Lawyer that specialises in Defamation of Character claims.
Some of Alex Nelson’s recent notable defamation cases include:
- Hockings v Lynch & Adams  QDC 127; damages totalling $215,000 plus interest and costs on the indemnity basis;
- Moy v Isaac; (the Bali Wedding Planner case) $150,000 damages including aggravated damages for Defamatory Facebook and website publications;
- Weatherall v Kelly (2019); extension of the limitation period for more than two years
- Clive Palmer v Malcolm Turnbull  QCA 112. Confirmed that foreign law is presumed to be the same as local law and does not need to be pleaded by the Plaintiff, unless they see a forensic advantage in doing so
- Grattan v Porter  QDC 202. Alex Nelson acted for the Plaintiff who was awarded $150,000 damages for defamation and $10,903.42 interest.
- Petty v Zhao (NSW District Court). Alex Nelson acted for the Defendant. The jury found her insults about her neighbour, a QC in Sydney, were substantially true.
- Sierocki v Klerck & Ors  QSC 092. Alex Nelson acted for the Plaintiffs. The First Plaintiff awarded $220,000 damages for defamation plus $27,614.60 interest; Second Plaintiff awarded $70,000 damages for defamation and $10,173.80 interest.
What is defamation?
Defamation of character is both a civil and criminal wrong. It is a combination of the old actions for slander and libel.
A person is defamed when:
1. someone communicates (or publishes):
2. material (in spoken, written or pictorial form):
3. about the Plaintiff (must be a living individual, a non profit organization or a company with less than 10 employees which is not related to another company):
4. which is defamatory because it:
injures their reputation by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule;
causes people to shun or avoid them; or
lowers their estimation in the mind of right thinking members of society.
5. which causes, or is likely to cause, serious harm;
At law, a statement can convey a defamatory meaning (an imputation) by:
the natural and ordinary meaning of the words used;
a false innuendo, when there is a secondary meaning which comes from reading between the lines; or
a true innuendo, where the insult arises from other facts known by the recipient of the publication.
If these elements are met, and no valid defence or privilege exists, a Defendant will be liable to pay compensation for damage caused to the Plaintiff’s reputation (defamation of character) and for the emotional hurt (or sting) of the lies or the insults. An injunction can sometimes be obtained to prevent further publication .
Some common fallacies:
1. You do not have to be famous – in fact, it could work against you if you were;
2. You do not have to prove that the statements are false;
3. An individual does not have to prove they have suffered any actual loss or damage because the law presumes that. Damages in defamation are often compensation for embarrassment and hurt feelings. For publications made after 1 July 2021, a plaintiff must be able to show that they have, or they are likely to, suffer serious harm. A corporate plaintiff can only show serious harm if it has suffered, or is likely to suffer, serious financial loss.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
Alex is also a Brisbane Mediator. He can assist parties, either by themselves or with their lawyers, to resolve defamation disputes at a Brisbane Mediation. If litigation has already been commenced, Alex can conduct an independent Case Appraisal pursuant to Rule 334 of the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999 (Qld).
A claim for damages for defamation (the old actions of slander or libel) must now be commenced within 1 year after publication, which in the case of things posted on the internet means the date it was first uploaded, although in some circumstances that can be extended to three years. Recent amendments mean that the test to get an extension of time is easier than it has been previously.
Previously, a new publication occurred every time the material was downloaded (read) by someone new. With the introduction of the single publication rule, online material is now taken to have been published when it was first uploaded. That means that the time limit to bring a claim could have commenced well before anyone actually read the material.
There is a statutory cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded for non economic loss in defamation proceedings (hurt feelings and loss of reputation). The cap on damages increased to $432,500 on 1 July 2021; Queensland Government Gazette, Defamation Act 2005 Declaration under Section 35(3), 387(34), p 194, 18 June 2021.