Significant Monetary Caps to Cut Down Defamation Cases
New defamation laws have been passed in Victoria and are set to shake up the previous uniform legislation. The new laws set a cap on damages, after the string of recent cases, such as Bauer Media Pty Ltd v Wilson, saw an award of $4.5 million slashed to $600,000.
Cap on Damages
The legislation has previously been unclear as to whether there is a cap on general damages for non-economic loss. The new legislation leaves nothing to the imagination, with a clear cap set at $421,000. Although this figure will increase with inflation, it is significantly lower than what the Courts have previously awarded, including in the case brought by Geoffrey Rush. It is anticipated that the sum of $421,000 will only be awarded in the most serious of cases. Other forms of damages will still be available.
New Time Limit
The new legislation will also impose a stricter time frame within which to bring a case for defamation. The current law is based on the multiple publication rule, which means that the one-year limitation period commences each time an online publication is downloaded and viewed by a reader. This has had the potential for cases to be brought for an indefinite period of time.
The law will now be based on the single publication rule, meaning that the one-year limitation period will commence from the first date of publication. This will provide more certainty and greatly benefit larger media organisations.
One of the other significant changes is a new test on damage to reputation. It will now need to be proven that the publication has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm to the reputation of the person. In limited circumstances, a company may bring a case. Where it does, the test changes to require the publication to have caused, or be likely to cause, serious financial loss.
It is anticipated that this will deter smaller or more trivial cases being brought for defamation.
The changes come into force in Victoria on 1 July 2021.
If you need advice on a potential defamation case or would like to discuss the impact of any of the changes to the law, please contact one of our experienced defamation lawyers at Taurus Legal Management on (03) 9481 2000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.