If you were under any misapprehension that defamation wasn’t (a) serious business or (b) very bloody expensive, here are two things you should know.
- A poker player was just awarded $340k for defamatory comments originating on his Facebook page. The comments (falsely) suggested that he had tried to steal money on separate occasions at Star City and at a hotel in Las Vegas.
It didn’t matter that the number of people to whom the comments were published was relatively small (compared to, say, a newspaper publication). The fact that they were his peers in the poker world meant that the damage was substantial. The damages award included aggravated damages because the comments reflected attempts to vilify him within the poker fraternity.
- Andrew Bolt was just awarded $500k in legal costs after he successfully defended a defamation claim by former Family First candidate David Barrow. The claim concerned a letter that Bolt wrote to his boss and the Press Council suggesting that Barrow was a vexatious litigant. Bolt won on a qualified privilege defence, which can still apply even if a communication is inaccurate.
Barrow apparently takes the case as a moral victory, given that Bolt and News did not dispute that his letter was defamatory. A pyrrhic victory really, since it’s been reported that the judgment will send him bankrupt.
There you have it. Very different cases and very different outcomes. The common thread is the extraordinary cost of losing.