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Laws 301 Lecture Notes Defamation Notes

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LAWS 301 Lecture Notes
Part 1: Torts to the Person
TORTS TO THE PERSON................................................................................................................................. 3
DEFAMATION...........................................................................................................................................................3
Background......................................................................................................................................................4
Opai v Culpan [2017] NZAR 1142 (HC)........................................................................................................................4
Sellman v Slater [2018] 2 NZLR 218............................................................................................................................5
Strict Liability.............................................................................................................................................................. 8
Elements of the Tort.................................................................................................................................................10

Publication.....................................................................................................................................................11
Repetition rule.......................................................................................................................................................... 12
Limitation.................................................................................................................................................................13
Loutchansky v Times Newspapers Ltd (No 2) [2002] 1 All ER 652........................................................................14
Dow Jones & Co Inc v Glutnick [2002] CLR 575....................................................................................................14
Sellman v Slater...................................................................................................................................................14
Third Party Publications (publication of omission or adoption)................................................................................15
Murray v Wishart [2014] NZCA 461.....................................................................................................................15
Internet publication..................................................................................................................................................16

Reference to plaintiff.....................................................................................................................................18
Morgan v Odhams Press Ltd [1971] 1 WLR 1239 (HL)..............................................................................................18

Determining the meaning.............................................................................................................................19
Fair minded reader...................................................................................................................................................19
Stocker v Stocker [2019] 3 All ER 647 (UKSC).......................................................................................................21
Lewis v Daily Telegraph Ltd [1964] AC 234 (HL)...................................................................................................22
APN New Zealand Ltd v Simunovich Fisheries Ltd [2010] 1 NZLR 315 (SCNZ).......................................................23
Context..................................................................................................................................................................... 24
Sellman v Slater [2018] 2 NZLR 218.....................................................................................................................24
Stocker v Stocker [2019] 3 All ER 647 (UKSC).......................................................................................................25
John v Guardian Newspapers and Media Ltd [2008] EWHC 3066........................................................................25
Bane and Antidote....................................................................................................................................................26
Charleston v News Group Newspapers Ltd [1995] 2 AC 65..................................................................................26
Truth (NZ) Ltd v Bowles [1966] NZLR 303 (CA).....................................................................................................27
Morosi v BroadcastingStation 2 GB Ptd Ltd [1980] 2 NSWLR...............................................................................27
McGee v Independent Newspapers Ltd [2006] NZAR 24......................................................................................27
Pleading Meanings...................................................................................................................................................29
"False" or "popular" innuendo - s 37(2)..............................................................................................................30
'True' or 'legal' innuendo - s 37(3)......................................................................................................................34

Defamatory Meaning....................................................................................................................................36
Berkoff v Burchill [1996] 4 All ER 1008.....................................................................................................................36
New Zealand Magazines Ltd v Hadlee (No 2) [2005] NZAR 621................................................................................38

Defences to Defamation................................................................................................................................40
Innocent Dissemination............................................................................................................................................40
Emmens v Pottle (1885) 16 QBD 354...................................................................................................................40
Truth (or justification)..............................................................................................................................................42
Television New Zealand Ltd v Haines [2006] 2 NZLR 433.....................................................................................43
Honest Opinion........................................................................................................................................................46
Based on known (true) facts................................................................................................................................49
Expression of value judgement or comment on facts..........................................................................................50
Privileges..................................................................................................................................................................51
Absolute privilege................................................................................................................................................51
Qualified privilege...............................................................................................................................................52
Loss of privilege...................................................................................................................................................52
Self-defence privilege..........................................................................................................................................53
Responsible Communication on Matter of Public Interest.......................................................................................55

1 Durie v Gardiner [2018] 3 NZLR 131 (CA).............................................................................................................55
Political Discussion..............................................................................................................................................57
Neutral reporting.................................................................................................................................................58

2 Torts to the Person
Defamation
Privacy - publication of a fact which is true. On the other hand, if the statement being published is not true you can use the tort of defamation.



Privacy is concerned with the distress and humiliation from disclosure, or knowing someone is watching them
Defamation is concerned with loss of reputation - someone says something which causes others to think less of the plaintiff
If plaintiff is distressed but there is no loss of reputation, defamation cannot succeed.
Until the 1600s, the traditional mechanism to deal with reputation was violent (duelling).
The law recognises in every man [and woman] a right to have the estimation in which he [or she] stands in the opinion of others unaffected by false statements to his [or her] discredit - Scott v Sampson (1882) 8 QBD 491 per Cave J

Remedies for a successful action in defamation have three purposes:


Compensate for damage to reputation
Vindicate the plaintiff's good name
Distress, hurt and humiliation are compensable but consequential to the first two.

Three factors in assessing the extent of damages:


Seriousness of the defamation
Extent of publication
Conduct of the defendant
[Defamation is] the oddest' of the torts… he [the plaintiff] can get damages
(swingeing damages!) for a statement made to others without showing that the statement was untrue, without showing that the statement did him the slightest harm, and without showing that the defendant was in any way wrong to make it
(much less that the defendant owed him any duty of any kind). - Weir, Tony
Casebook on Tort. 8th edition. London: Sweet & Maxwell, 1996 at 525

3 Background
Opai v Culpan [2017] NZAR 1142 (HC)
Defamation is a strict liability tort:


Burden rests on the defendant to rebut presumption of falsity
No requirement for intention to defame - the only intention required is to publish
Once a defamatory statement is published, the onus shifts to the defendant to prove an available defence - truth, honest opinion, qualified privilege

[61] There has been increasing recognition that the right to reputation must be carefully balanced against the right to freedom of expression.


Law is mediating between these values
Section 14 NZBORA protects freedom of expression
How does the law accommodate defamation within the Act? Any limits on freedom of expression must be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

The plaintiff should not be allowed to bring cases where damages are trivial:
[62] "allowing a trivial or pointless defamation case to continue could constitute an impermissible interference with freedom of expression.


Jameel - highly defamatory article claiming the plaintiff was funding Al-Queda. Only 5 people in the UK had read the article. 3 were associated with the plaintiff, the other 2 could not remember the person's name.
English Human Rights Act 1998 - brought in the need to consider impacts on freedom of expression
Preventing trivial defamation cases from proceeding through the court system enhances overall access to justice.
[63] "The Jameel principle recognises the important role the court can play in preventing its processes from being abused by the brining of defamation claims where the costs of the litigation are likely to be grossly disproportionate to any reputational harm suffered."

Opai endorses the Jameel principle - proportionality between court resources required to determine a claim and the interest at stake.

4 Sellman v Slater [2018] 2 NZLR 218
Lecture 9: (24/03/20)
Defendant applies to strike out the proceeding as an abuse of court process based on the Jameel principle - there was no substantial tort, disproportionate waste of resources to proceed.

Plaintiff alleged they had been defamed in a series of blog posts by Slater and comments by other defendants
Slater had said some disrespectful things about Sellman across 31 posts on the Whale Oil blog,
with a large number of viewers on each post - no difficulty in establishing substantial harm

Palmer J examined the question of whether substantial harm or some other threshold is required as an element of defamation:

In England, the early approach was to strike out claims as an abuse of process - civil procedure approach, Jameel
[52] X v Attorney-General (No 2) [2017] NZHC 1136 - The High Court applied Jameel in striking out a defamation claim
"The group of potential publishes is already very small and will then be reduced further to those who actually saw these materials." - France J


So few people had actually seen the defamatory material that the Court thought there was no need for the case to go to trial.
[54] CPA Australia Ltd v New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants - recognises a minimum threshold of seriousness
"That would require a claimant to meet an objective seriousness threshold as an element of making out the actionability of alleged defamatory statements." -
Dobson J

Some level of harm to the plaintiff is a necessary element of the tort, just as much as publication
[59] I agree it is conceivable there may be some extreme circumstances in which legal proceedings place such a disproportionate burden on… the court system.
The cost of the New Zealand court system is met by taxpayers who expect it not to be abused

[60] However, this should not be a routine response to defamation claims that do not cause much harm
"The right of a person or group to access the courts in order to vindicate their legal rights has ahigh constitutional value in New Zealand."



[62] Recent developments in England have departed from the Jameel notion of abuse of process.
Instead, the Courts have looked at a minimum threshold of damage being an element of defamation - no question of abuse of process need arise
Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd [2019] UKSC 27 - required threshold of damage to be an element of the tort.
[63] "I consider the Lachaux approach to be preferable in shaping defamation law. If some level or existing or anticipated damage to reputation is required for a

5 defamation claim to proceed, that suggests it is an element of the tort of defamation."

[64] Presumption of damage remains a sensible element of the law of defamation
[65] Publisher (defendant) should bear the burden of rebutting the presumption on balance of probabilities - can be done early in proceedings so case does not go to trial
"If the publisher can show there is not, and is not likely to be sufficient damage to reputation above a certain threshold, then that should be able to be raised as a defence to a claim of defamation."

[68] Threshold of harm is more than minor
"I am concerned a threshold of 'serious harm' is too high… It is possible for an actionable defamation that causes less than serious but more than minor harm to reputation… I consider a threshold of more than minor harm to reputation should be required to found an action for defamation in New Zealand."

[67] Reconciliation of competing interests - right to freedom of expression and people's reputations.

[34] Weight of authority supports the multiple publication rule.
The law of defamation has always considered publication to be more than just an act of the publisher… If a reputation falls in a forest, but no one hears of it, it does not sound in defamation.

[35] NZ courts could change the common law to adopt single publication rule - no statutory obstacles, but it should not do so for various policy reasons.

[37] When a blog is posted, it is available for everyone who visits the website to see in a more direct and accessible way than a newspaper or book.
In a very real sense, posting a blog represents offering a continuing publication to the world.

6 At common law, libel is concerned with written defamations and slander is anything else - conduct,
gestures etc.
In New Zealand, ss 2 and 4 of the Defamation Act has combined libel and slander as defamation:
Section 4 Defamation actionable without proof of special damage
In proceedings for defamation, it is not necessary to allege or prove special damage.

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