Simpsons Solicitors

All in the scope

September 3rd 2013

A recent defamation case highlights the importance of making sure that, if you are suing for defamation, you focus on the actual people or organisation responsible, and not cast your net so wide that you end up spending money on legal costs without any corresponding benefit.

A defamation case is currently wending its way through the NSW Supreme Court as a result of a series of articles published in the Daily Telegraph about the purported use of performance enhancing substances in football.

In an interim decision, a judge has struck out claims brought by the plaintiff against two medical doctors whose comments on medical aspects of the use of the substances were sought and then published in the articles. The court applied the principle that someone who merely contributes material to an article, but has no control over the publishing process, will not ordinarily be liable as a “publisher” of any defamatory comments unless he or she has assented to the article in its final form.

The judge did allow the opportunity for the plaintiff to re-plead his claims against the two doctors, but also took the opportunity to state as follows:

“It is, of course, a matter for [the plaintiff] how he wishes to conduct his defamation actions (hopefully on the strength of sensible and complete legal advice). … however, … the full collection of proceedings commenced by [the plaintiff] has launched something of a juggernaut. There are multiple proceedings, multiple defendants, multiple legal teams and a vast number of imputations relied upon in all. The objections that are now taken by the defendants in the present application and other applications … will afford the plaintiff an opportunity … to reassess the ambit of the fight he wishes to take on. I would urge the plaintiff … to give careful consideration to the way in which the claims are framed with a view to bringing before the court a manageable dispute calculated to raise the real issues required to be determined…”

It appears that the judge had formed the view that more care should have been taken by the lawyers acting for the plaintiff to achieve those aims – “a manageable dispute” that dealt with “the real issues”.

You can read the case – Dank v Whitaker (No 1) – online at:

http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/nsw/NSWSC/2013/1062.html

If you want strong, practical and cost-effective advice on defamation, contact defamation lawyers Adam Simpson and Ian McDonald at Simpsons Solicitors.