Hunt v Bailey and Anor [2017] VCC 990

Plaintiff seeking damages in respect of defamatory emails published by the defendant which harmed the plaintiff's reputation.

Mr Baily, the defendant, did not file an appearance: this means he did not tell the Court he wanted to appear in court to defend the case.

Mr Hunt, the plaintiff, applied to the Court for, and was granted, an Interlocutory Judgment against the defendant. An Interlocutory Judgment is an interim or temporary judgment which needs another step to make it final and permanent. In this case, the next step was an assessment of damages by the Court.

This judgment explains what Mr Hunt had to prove to the Court to get damages and how the Court assessed those damages (what Mr Bailey had to pay Mr Hunt).

Mr Hunt ran a business that exported meat products to China. Mr Hunt sued Mr Bailey over emails and WeChat messages Mr Bailey sent about Mr Hunt. Mr Bailey sent those emails and messages to meat suppliers connected to Mr Hunt’s business.

Mr Hunt argued Mr Bailey said things about him in those emails and messages that were 'defamatory'. This means the emails said things about Mr Hunt that were more than just insulting: they would damage Mr Hunt’s business reputation.

Emails

The emails sent to meat suppliers said "Hunt is a crook … Hunt is offending every countries (sic) law by evading tax and smuggling" and "I will have my lawyer goes (sic) to ATO … about Hunt not disclosing his overseas income".

After the plaintiff filed the case, the defendant sent further emails and messages of this nature, including to the plaintiff’s solicitor and to the Court.

The Judge found these emails were defamatory because they suggested Mr Hunt engaged in crime, evaded tax, was corrupt and put suppliers at risk. The Judge found the comments in these emails, and what they were suggesting about Mr Hunt, risked damaging Mr Hunt’s business reputation: if recipients of those emails believed what Mr Bailey was saying, those recipients may stop doing business with Mr Hunt and Mr Hunt could risk losing his business licence.

As a result, the Judge found Mr Hunt was entitled to damages in the amount of $220,000. This amount was made up of general damages to help to repair Mr Hunt’s business reputation, and console Mr Hunt for the personal distress and hurt he experienced, and aggravated damages because of the defendant’s behaviour (continuing to send emails and messages) after the case was filed.

The Judge also granted Mr Hunt an injunction against Mr Bailey, which is a court order preventing Mr Bailey from sending further emails and messages.

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Page last updated: 16 September 2018