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Multi-Million Dollar Defamation Action?

Sandra McColl

Hot on the heels of the news of the Essendon Football Club supplements issue come reports that one of the persons named in connection with the matter intends to institute ‘a $10 million defamation case’ against various media outlets.

The Defamation Act 2005 provides that damages awarded to a successful plaintiff must be proportional to the amount of harm caused. Where damages are for non-economic loss, those damages are limited to $339,000 (indexed annually), unless the Court determines that there is a reason for awarding aggravated damages (for which it would be necessary to prove that there was malice in the making of the defamatory publication, or that it was expressed in a particularly offensive way).

Damages can also be awarded for economic loss, for example, where the plaintiff can demonstrate that the damage to his professional or business reputation is shown to cause loss of earnings.

To obtain a judgment of $10 million, after persuading the Court that the publication or publications complained of were defamatory, a plaintiff would need all or some of the following:

  • a large number of separate defendants;
  • to demonstrate millions of dollars in economic loss flowing from the damage to reputation caused by the defamation; and
  • to convince the Court that the defamatory reports were made with malice or were expressed in a particularly offensive way.
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