Character Defamation

Defamation of character is on the rise, especially with the growth in popularity of internet based social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Google.  Alex Nelson is a Brisbane Defamation Lawyer specialising in the law surrounding Defamation of Character.

Some of Alex Nelson’s recent notable defamation of character cases include:

  • 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 time to commence action for defamation more than two years from publication;
  • successfully appealing in Clive Palmer v Malcolm Turnbull (Palmer v Turnbull[2018] QCA 112), confirming that where the lex loci delicti is a foreign law, it is presumed that it is the same as local law and it does not need to be pleaded nor proven as a matter of fact unless the plaintiff sees a forensic advantage in relying on the foreign law and intends to rely on it as differing from local law;
  • Grattan v Porter [2016] QDC 202 where Alex nelson acted for the Plaintiff who was awarded $150,000 damages and $10,903.42 interest.
  • Petty v Zhao (NSW District Court) where Alex Nelson acted for the Defendant and the jury found that all of the defamatory imputations that she published about her neighbour, a QC in Sydney, were substantially true.
  • Sierocki v Klerck & Ors [2015] QSC 092 where Alex Nelson acted for the Plaintiffs; the First Plaintiff awarded $220,000 damages plus $27,614.60 interest; Second Plaintiff awarded $70,000 damages and $10,173.80 interest.

Defamation of character is both a civil and criminal wrong and is a combination of the old actions for slander and libel.

A person is defamed when the Defendant:

1. 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 has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm.

At law a statement can convey a defamatory meaning (an imputation):

  • By their natural and ordinary meaning;

  • By a false innuendo, when there is a secondary meaning which comes from reading between the lines.

  • By a true innuendo, where the insult comes from reading the words used in light of other facts known by the recipient of the words or pictures used.

If these elements are met, and provided no valid defence or privilege exists, then a Defendant will be liable to compensate the Plaintiff for damage caused by the defamation of character  and for the emotional hurt (or sting) of the lies or the insults.  An injunction may also be obtained to prevent further defamatory publication so as to protect your character.

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 that they have suffered any actual losses because the law presumes damage to have occurred from the publication of defamatory material and damages in defamation are often compensation for embarrassment and hurt feelings.

Time Limits

A claim for damages for defamation of character must be commenced within 1 year after publication , although in some circumstances that timeframe can be extended to three years.

If you want to start a claim for defamation of character then you should consult a Brisbane defamation lawyer (barrister or solicitor) because the law is quite complex.

Click here for information about defamation of character.


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