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Defamation Law Update

In this article we will talk about two recent developments in defamation law.

The first is a defamation claim from Victoria. Dr Allison Dean, a dentist, won a claim for $170,000.00 against her patient. Ms Catherine Puleio, the patient, posted a 1 start Google review about Dr Dean, along with written reviews. And the 1 star was only given because of the “beautiful/worldly consulting room only”.

The comments made by Ms Puleio were damaging to Dr Dean’s professional reputation, and personal wellbeing.

The Judge in this case estimated that the comments by Ms Puleio had been seen by some 100,000 people, and that did not include the grapevine effect.

After the comments, Dr Dean could prove a downturn on her weekly webpage views, and new patients referrals had declined.

The second case regarding defamation law is one about media companies’ liability for Facebook posts, coming from New South Wales.

The NSW Court of Appeal found that media outlets were liable as publishers of readers’ Facebook posts because those media outlets “encouraged and facilitated” comments by setting up public Facebook pages. This finding could have a reaching effect on any other business or community page set up on Facebook.

The decision went on to the High Court of Australia, where it was dismissed. The High Court have now settled the fact that the media outlets, as publishers of third-party comments on their Facebook pages, are liable for defamatory comments.

The High Court found that, by creating a public Facebook page and posting content, the media outlets had encouraged and facilitated the publication of comments from Facebook users.

The key takeaways from these two decisions are that:

  • Defamation can occur by Google reviews, or perhaps even the simple act of awarding 1 out of 5 stars;
  • An administrator of a Facebook page may be liable for defamatory posts by users of such Facebook pages.

It is important to remember that you can only bring a defamation claim if the claim is filed within 1 year of publication, or 56 days from the expiry date of the concerns notice, whichever is the later.

If you have been defamed, or have been accused of defamation, contact one of our defamation lawyers for further advice on 13 58 28. See one of our defamation lawyers in Ipswich, Gatton, Springfield or Brisbane.

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