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Court of Appeal on Williams And Craig

Court of Appeal on Williams And Craig

JUDGMENT OF THE COURT

A The appeal is allowed in part. The order made in the High Court for retrial of the appellant’s claims for liability and damages is set aside.

B Judgment is entered for the appellant in accordance with the jury’s verdict on liability. An order is made directing a retrial of the appellant’s claim for damages.

C In all other respects the appeal and cross appeal are dismissed.

D The respondent is ordered to pay the appellant 50 per cent of costs as calculated for a standard appeal on a band A basis with usual disbursements. There is no order for costs on the cross-appeal. All costs issues arising in the High Court are to be determined in that Court in accordance with this judgment.

Introduction

[1] Jordan Williams is the founder and executive director of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. Colin Craig was the founding leader of the Conservative Party of New Zealand. Mr Williams is a former supporter of the Conservative Party and its political philosophy of fiscal and social conservatism.

[2] Mr Williams claimed Mr Craig defamed him in statements made in two sequential publications in 2015. Mr Craig’s statements were made in response to Mr Williams’ publicised allegation that Mr Craig had sexually harassed his former secretary. Mr Williams sued Mr Craig for damages in the High Court. Mr Craig ran the affirmative defences of truth, honest opinion and qualified privilege. A jury found for Mr Williams following a trial of nearly four weeks. It awarded him $1.27 million. It was the largest defamation damages award in New Zealand’s legal history.

[3] On Mr Craig’s application, Katz J, the trial judge, declined to enter judgment for Mr Williams in accordance with the jury’s verdict. She later set aside the verdict on the ground that the damages award was excessive. She ordered a new trial of Mr Williams’ claim on both liability and damages, but declined Mr Craig’s application to enter judgment in his favour.

Full decision (pdf)

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