Defamation

Turn to Atkinson Vinden Lawyers for Expert Advice on your Defamation case.

  • Over 35 years of experience in defamation cases

  • Personal, tailored services to suit your individual case

  • Strategies and options to minimise your legal costs

  • A sensitive approach to your case

Reputation Management

Defamatory statements have the potential to do great damage to your reputation, and/or the reputation of your company. Where our service offering differs from our competitors is that we take a holistic approach to the problem. How can we handle the reputational crisis in such a way that prevents the problem escalating? How do we keep the issue away from public spotlight and away from the media? If the media has already picked up the story, what legal actions can be taken to suck oxygen out of the story? What should be included in a press release without the risk of further criticism being made? Litigation is not always the solution, and expert behind the scenes negotiation may be necessary to secure the most commercially valuable outcome. Let us help you in this time of crisis.

If someone has publicly damaged your reputation, or if you are being accused of having done this to someone else, we can help you!

Defamation occurs when one person communicates material that lowers the reputation of another and the person has no legal defence in doing so.

It might be a highly critical comment online, a slanderous comment made about them in a social or community group, or could even be something reported about them in the media which is simply not true and which paints them in a terrible light. In our increasingly digital age, where people often post ill-considered comments online, this is becoming an area of growing concern.

In NSW, this area is governed primarily by the Defamation Act 2005 (NSW) (“the Act”). It allows us to take some action when something with a defamatory imputation is “published” in a range of contexts, including an article, report, advertisement or other thing communicated by means of a newspaper, magazine or other periodical, television, radio, the internet or any other form of electronic communication. It can also occur in the context of a letter, note or other writing, a picture, gesture or something stated orally.

Defamation material is not always straightforward. For example, a Victorian man successfully sued Google in 2012 claiming that a search of his name brought up stories about an unsolved shooting causing damage to his reputation and leading him to be ostracised in his migrant community.

  • What are some defences to Defamation?

    There are a number of defences to a defamation claim, so anyone thinking of going down this path needs to make sure that the defamatory publication is not protected. Some examples of where statements which appear defamatory may still be protected include where the statement is substantially true, where the statement represents the honest opinion of the person making the statement, and where the person is fairly reporting on a matter of public concern.

    Matters considered to be “trivial” in the scheme of things will also not attract the court’s sympathy, so victims need to be consider the matter objectively to make sure they are not being unduly oversensitive. For example, a lawyer in Queensland commenced proceedings against his former-son-in-law for referring to him as “Dennis Denuto from Ipswich” (the well-meaning but slightly incompetent lawyer in the film, The Castle). This statement was made in one email and two conversations with family members. The lawyer’s claim was unsuccessful and trivial. The court found that in the circumstances the communication was made and its limited audience made it difficult to see how the lawyer’s reputation could be damaged in any meaningful way.

  • Resolution of defamation disputes without resorting to litigation

    Most defamation cases never get to court for two important reasons. First, Court proceedings can have the unfortunate effect of amplifying the defamatory statement to a much wider audience, potentially furthering the damage.  The second reason is a financial one. Legal costs in these cases will always be tens of thousands of dollars and can often run well over $100,000! For these reasons it is only the wealthy and high profile disputes that end up running to a hearing in court, and which get reported in the media.

    Usually there is a negotiation to see if a compromise can be agreed upon. There might be an offer of a public apology, or an undertaking to cease making further comments, together with an offer of financial compensation.

  • Resolution of defamation disputes by initiating proceedings

    If no agreement can be reached an action may be commenced and a judge or a jury will determine the case for you. If a party can prove they have been defamed they generally receive compensatory damages. However, for reasons mentioned a negotiated outcome is almost always preferable for everyone involved.

  • What are my options if I’ve been accused of defamation?

    If you are the person who has inadvertently made a defamatory publication, it is important to know that a court will usually discount the damages it might otherwise order you to pay if you have made an apology to the other party, and if you have published a correction. If you realise that you have overstepped the mark in something you have said or written, get on the front foot and take steps to amend early before things get out of hand.

  • We can help you

    Give us a call if you find yourself in a difficult situation regarding defamation.  These issues need to be dealt with urgently to protect the reputation of the injured party.  Litigation in this area is very expensive you will need skilled advisers to help bring about a swift resolution for you.  There are strict timelines to comply with and notices alleging defamation need to be formatted in a particular way. We have lots of experience assisting in these sorts of matters, and we look forward to hearing from you urgently.  Call us today on (02) 9411 4466.