Mahoneys: Defamation in Bodies Corporate

It’s an all too common occurrence – tempers can flare when people are forced to come into contact with others that they wouldn’t usually associate with. When there are differing views in a strata scheme (whether about the standard of caretaking, management, decisions made by the committee, or just disputes between different lot owners) it can often devolve into one side taking their dispute too far and making false or damaging statements about the other. That is where the law of defamation can step in to help.

Defamation can take many forms. Over the last few years we have acted for clients in respect of a wide gamut of defamatory matters, including:

  • oral conversations, where allegations of serious abuse were made to multiple customers of our client in an attempt to drive down their business;
  • official body corporate newsletters alleging illegal misconduct by the caretaker;
  • communications between committee members and lot owners alleging dishonesty and poor work standard by the caretaker;
  • false google reviews of a resort published by lot owners under false names; and
  • links and snippets of articles alleging fraud showing up in search results published by search engines.

In short, any publication (whether in writing, pictures, video, or spoken) that may cause a person seeing or hearing it to think less of someone else may be defamatory.

To take action against someone for defamation, you need to be able to prove:

  • that the defamatory material was published to someone other than yourself;
  • that there was not a proper basis for making the publication (i.e., the matters in it were not supported by proper evidence);
  • that the people that the publication was made to understood that it was referring to you; and
  • that it caused harm to your reputation.

If you believe you have been defamed it is important that you seek advice as soon as possible – the timeframe for bringing an action is only 1 year, and there are numerous defences. It is also important to strike while the iron is hot and while the defamatory material is fresh in people’s mind.

If you think you have been defamed, or have been accused of defaming someone else, we can help you to protect your reputation. Please reach out to discuss your options.

by Ben Seccombe & Ben Sandford

Author: Ben Sanford, Associate, Mahoneys

Link to original article here 

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