The recent high profile case heard by the Supreme Court in Victoria between actress Rebel Wilson and German media giant Bauer Media has come to a dramatic conclusion, with Justice Dixon finding that Bauer Media had maliciously defamed Ms Wilson. Ms Wilson was awarded a large sum of $4.5 million dollars in damages, resulting in the largest known defamation win in Australian history. 

This case is also believed to be the first case where the statutory cap of $389,500.00 in place for assessing damages for non-economic loss has been disregarded. Justice Dixon made a  statement to the effect that when assessing Wilson’s damages for non-economic loss the cap was able to be disregarded due to the circumstances of the aggravation in this case.

Although the scope of this case is generally outside the realms of what could be expected in a less publicised/non-celebrity court battle, it is still sending a very timely and important message for the general population that what you publish online, or in social media, can be classed as defamation. Individuals need to be very careful about online presence and activity or they may be at the receiving end of an expensive law suit.

Our firm has seen an increase in the number of clients enquiring about their rights in relation to material published about them on Facebook and whether it could be considered defamatory In addition, the growing number of court cases both in Australia and world-wide are highlighting the number of defamation actions being launched.  A landmark ruling in Switzerland has also shown the extent to which the Court seems to be willing to take particular actions in this regard, stating that “clicking the “like” button is an expression of a “value judgement” indicating support of the original post…”,This potentially opens a can of worms in relation to even ‘liking’ something on social media.

The general test for establishing defamation is a ‘reasonable person’ test, ergo, if you publish something that could be seen to be exposing another person or business to contempt, ridicule or hatred in the eyes of a reasonable person, you maybe defaming them and liable for a potential lawsuit.

There are many caveats on a successful defamation action, which include, but are  not limited to, the extent to which someone has suffered as a result of the defamatory comments and the evidentiary support to show the loss suffered.  In some instances,the case may be thrown out if it is found that the comments made, were actually proven to be true.

This area of law is not without its complexities, and generally the window after the publication of defamatory material for instigating court proceedings is one year.  It is a good idea to take screenshots of any material which concerns you, as trying to obtain deleted data (if removed by the person making the comments) from a social media company can be a difficult and timely process..  If you believe that you have suffered financially as a result of comments made about you, it is also important to retain historical and continuing financial data as evidence to prove this downturn.

It is vitally important that you obtain independent and experienced legal advice if you are worried about something you have posted, or you have concerns about material posted about you.

If you do have any concerns about this type of matter, we would strongly recommend that you contact one of our Gold Coast solicitors today on 07 5563 8970 to arrange a consultation to discuss your concerns.