In the recent cased of Capilano Honey Limited v Dowling (No 4) [2021] NSWSC 264, the Supreme Court of New Wales considered a piece of litigation arising from a honey-making company, and its CEO commencing injurious falsehood and defamation proceedings.

The company and the CEO wanted damages and orders restraining the defendant from making further defamatory publications in future.

The plaintiffs complained about the defendant publishing various pieces of material which conveyed meanings, including:

– The plaintiff company’s honey was toxic;

– The plaintiffs conspired with the judiciary and a consumer advocate magazine; and

– There exists a “sex tape” showing the CEO discussing a sex act performed with an employee.

The publications were made on the defendant’s website, Facebook and Twitter.

The defendant put no evidence before the Court that the honey was indeed “toxic” or harmful. The defendant (who was not represented by lawyers) did not raise the sort of usual defences which might be expected, including truth, and indeed made several admissions in their defence.

Working through the publication-identification-reputation matrix required in defamation matters, the Court found the CEO had been defamed and awarded the CEO $150,000.00 in damages.

The company’s claim was in injurious falsehood, not defamation, meaning the company had to prove the falsity of what was said. The company did so and proved malice, obtaining a more “cautious” $25,000.00 in damages. The orders restraining further publication were made.

This case illustrates the dangers of publishing false material online. It can be an expensive mistake to make!

 

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