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When words can bite

Before you hit the send button, or post, have a serious look at the content of your message and whether it could be damaging to others.

Defamation cases can affect any of us and are certainly not just the domain of actresses, actors, celebrities, influencers or politicians.

There have been many high-profile defamation cases in Australia over the last few years; Geoffrey Rush, Rebel Wilson and Joe Hockey to name a few.

But now it appears a large portion of defamation cases in Australia involve disputes between individuals over comments posted on social media, websites, or other digital platforms.

No one is immune. The very public email feud between the chairperson/resident and another resident at a Manly apartment block is a prime example.

Long story short, the court had initially ordered the resident to pay the chairperson $120,000 in damages. But in a recent turn of events, after successfully appealing the ruling, the $120,000 defamation payout ruling has since been overturned.

Whilst this may have been a feat financially for one party, it does not take into account the emotional toll this case has had on both parties, their friends and families, and other residents in the apartment block.

At the end of the day, this is their home and nobody wants a stressful home environment. Life can be complicated enough without your home sanctuary being affected by stress.

Defamation law is there to protect us all from false or negative statements made against us that could damage our personal or professional reputation.

It is there to balance the right to protect one’s reputation and the right of freedom of speech.

Defamation law allows people to sue those who say or publish false and malicious comments. If you have been defamed, you could seek compensation for financial and other losses as a result of that claim.

The lesson to all of us, not just those living in strata, is to practice diplomacy always in our verbal and written language.

Anything that could damage a person’s reputation can be deemed as defamatory. That includes anything slanderous documented in meeting minutes, emails or verbalised in conversation or at meetings.

As we have very publicly seen with the celebrity defamation cases and the specific Manly apartments case, that could bring some very serious consequences.

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