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The art of calculating damages in defamation cases

How are damages calculated in defamation cases?

Section 34 of the Defamation Act 2005 (Qld) states that:

“In determining the amount of damages to be awarded in any defamation proceedings, the court is to ensure that there is an appropriate and rational relationship between the harm sustained by the plaintiff and the amount of damages awarded.”

The calculation of damages for non-economic loss (i.e. damages for the hurt, injury and harm caused to the feelings and personal, professional and/or business reputation of the plaintiff) is not the product of a rigid and formulaic exercise. Each case is assessed on its own particular set of facts, matters and circumstances and the Judge will (if sitting alone, without a jury) calculate the appropriate award of damages by generally examining the following factors:

  • the nature and extent of the plaintiff’s reputation;
  • the nature and gravity of the defamatory accusations conveyed by the publication;
  • the mode, extent and duration of the publication;
  • the grapevine effect;
  • the effect of the publication on the feelings and reputation of the plaintiff;
  • the conduct of the defendant from the time of publication;
  • the conduct of the defendant at the trial; and
  • all the circumstances of the case relevant to the assessment of damages.

The amount of damages awarded will need to be high enough to vindicate the plaintiff’s reputation in the eyes of the public.


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Disclaimer

This commentary is of a general nature only, containing some general information for the reader.

It is not intended to be legal advice, nor can it be relied upon as legal advice, as each case will depend upon its own specific facts, matters and circumstances.

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Laws, rules and principles may be subject to sudden and unexpected changes and you should always consult a lawyer about your specific circumstances before committing an act or omission in relation to your matter.