Don’t forget to “vet” your complaints – are they defamatory?

25 June 2020

In a recent District Court decision, a dog owner consumer was ordered to pay to a vet and his company $25,000.00 (plus interest) relating to seven publications through various social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and True Local.

The consumer attempted (unsuccessfully in this case) to argue the statements she made on social media were truthful or an honestly held opinion.  

However, the court found that the statements carried imputations or suggestions that the vet and his company had engaged in unfair and unreasonable business practices, the complainant was unprofessional and not a suitable person to be a vet and lacked morals.  These imputations were defamatory because a reasonable person who read the social media statements would think less of the vet and his company.

This case is important.  Although a consumer may believe his/her negative review is the “truth” or an “honest opinion”, those defences are technical and not always successful.  In this sense, it is always safer to “vet” any complaint before you publish it!

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Defamation: shielding your reputation from 'keyboard warriors'

John Sneddon, Partner
(07) 3307 4504
jsneddon@shandtaylor.com.au

Kimberley Forman, Partner
(07) 3307 4523
kforman@shandtaylor.com.au

Ruby Nielsen, Associate
(07) 3307 4551
rnielsen@shandtaylor.com.au

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