Defamation lawyers on the Sunshine coast can provide you with advice and assistance with defamation, which is a tort within civil law which deals with civil wrongs that causes an individual to suffer loss or harm.
Individuals who have been victimised as a result of a civil tort are able to sue for compensation or seek an injunction put in place to prevent further damage.
The tort of defamation originated in British law, however today in Queensland it is governed by the Defamation Act 2005.
This piece of legislation is primarily concerned with protecting an individual’s reputation, dignity and honour while also balancing freedom of expression.
Seek a referral from our Sunshine Coast litigation lawyers today for advice and assistance with your defamation claim.
What is Classed as Defamation?
Defamation is classed as an untrue statement by an individual (referred to as the ‘publisher’) to a third party which negatively impacts the reputation of another (‘aggrieved’ or ‘claimant’).
An action in defamation aims to correct public assumptions and perceptions, as well as compensating the aggrieved for any damages suffered as a result.
A successful action in defamation must include all the elements required. Some preliminary questions used prior to this, such as whether the claimant is eligible to sue for defamation and if it is within the limitations of actions is vitally important.
The first element to a defamation action is whether the defendant has defamed the plaintiff. To determine this, the matter must contain defamatory imputation/s, must have been published by the defendant and capable of identifying the plaintiff as the individual defamed.
The Defamation Act 2005 (Qld) defines publication to include posting on social media, written imputations, speech and even drawings. These elements must be satisfied without a lawful excuse by the defendant.
It is also important to note, recent law reform to the Defamation Act was enforced in July 2020. This was to include an additional requirement that the defamation must have caused serious harm to the plaintiff.
Why Use Sunshine Coast Defamation Lawyers
The general test set out in the case of Radio 2UE Sydney Pty Ltd v Chesterton  HCA 16  is available in determining whether a matter is defamatory:
“The general test for defamation is relevant to all imputations which are said to have injured a plaintiff’s reputation in some respect. The likelihood that the ordinary reasonable person may think the less of a plaintiff because of the imputations is assessed by reference to that person’s general knowledge and their knowledge of standards held by the general community, as they may apply to what is said about the plaintiff. Because such a person can be expected to apply the standards of the general community, he or she may be described as “decent”. The standards are not limited to those of a moral or ethical kind. That a particular imputation may not require the application of a community standard does not render the general test inapplicable. The inquiry as to the effect upon reputation remains. In a case where a secondary defamatory meaning is alleged, which may require knowledge of particular facts within a business or profession, those special facts may be pleaded and led in evidence in support of a true innuendo. There is no warrant for the application of the knowledge or attitudes of a hypothetical referee other than those of the ordinary reasonable person.”
Because of the complex nature of any defamation claims, it is very important that you contact a suitibly qualified and experienced defamation lawyer.
What are the Defences to a Defamation Claim in Queensland?
In terms of defences, there is quite a large variety under the Act which include:
- Justification – the defendant must prove the defamatory imputations within the matter are substantially true.
- Contextual Truth – the matter complained of included one or more substantially true imputations, that the false imputation/s does not further harm the plaintiff’s reputation.
- Absolute Privilege – the defendant made the defamatory imputations during parliamentary debates, in court or tribunal and was privileged and immune to such action.
- Public Document – similar to what is stated above, the imputations were published in a parliamentary, court, tribunal, or government document.
- Fair Report – the defendant must prove that the matter was, or was contained in, a fair report of any proceedings of public concern.
- Qualified Privilege – the publication of the defamatory imputation/s was necessary for legal, social, or moral reason, limits apply.
- Honest Opinion – the defamatory imputation/s were published as an opinion and not a fact.
- Innocent Dissemination – The defendant published the matter within their capacity as an employee or distributor, without knowledge of the contents and was not a result of negligence.
In fact, most defamation proceedings are either won or lost on the defences, rather than the cause of action. If you want the best defence then it is important that you engage defamation lawyers on the Sunshine Coast.
Apologies and Offer to Make Amends
A concern’s notice issued by the aggrieved will generally include an opportunity for the defendant to apologise for the defamatory imputations and to make amends.
A publisher’s apology does not necessarily create evidence of fault or liability but may be taken as evidence to mitigate damages received by the plaintiff.
In regard to an offer to make amends, a notice is included within the concerns notice issued to the defendant which allows them 28 days to make an offer to make amends to the plaintiff.
An offer to make amends should satisfy the main aims in resolving a defamation matter, to correct public perception and compensate the aggrieved for any damages or loss suffered.
It is encouraged that the aggrieved accepts a reasonable offer as if they do not, the publisher then may have a defence against the claim.
As stated above, an offer to make amends cannot be taken as evidence of liability in defamation proceedings.
Maximum Damages Available
Queensland’s Defamation Act limits the maximum amount of damages for non-economic loss that may be awarded in defamation proceedings to $432,500.00 (current at the time of writing this article), this amount is to be awarded only in the most serious case. This limit changes yearly.
This limit however does not limit the courts power is additionally award aggravated damages and there is no limit in place on the amount of economic damages to be claimed.
Seeking Advice from a Sunshine Coast Defamation Lawyer
Defamation actions carry very strict time restrictions (one (1) year from the date of publication), you should consult a lawyer as soon as possible if you believe you have a claim.
Or on the other hand, if you have been served with concerns notice, it may be worth while consulting a lawyer to establish whether you have a defence or the best way to resolve the matter.
Please feel free to use our website to find a suitable litigation lawyer on the Sunshine Coast for you.