Push for record payout in Jones case
TOTAL defamation damages claims against broadcaster Alan Jones, his radio employer, a Brisbane radio station and a journalist were recently increased to $4.8 million, a court has heard.
It would make the total claims by Toowoomba's well known Wagner family higher than the record $4.5 million in defamation damages awarded to actor Rebel Wilson in 2017.
Denis, John, Neill and Joe Wagner have sued Alan Jones, Radio 4BC Brisbane, Jones's employer, Harbour Radio and journalist Nick Cater over comments Mr Jones made after the January 2011 floods.
The increased claims were revealed by Rob Anderson QC, for the defendants, during his cross examination of John Wagner during the Supreme Court defamation case hearing.
Mr Anderson told the court the claim was amended a week ago to "vastly increase" the damages claimed by each plaintiff to $1.2 million.
However, Justice Peter Flanagan refused to allow Mr Anderson to question Mr Wagner about the increased damages claim, after an objection by counsel for the Wagners, Tom Blackburn SC.
Mr Blackburn told the judge that the increase in the amount claimed was partly in response to the Rebel Wilson decision and a Western Australian defamation decision.
In 2017, Perth barrister, Lloyd Rainey, was awarded $2.6 million in damages for being defamed by police.
Mr Anderson said: "Your honour knows the types of figures that were claimed previously and the kinds of amounts that were obtained by way of general damages for Mr Rayney and Ms Wilson.
"Your Honour knows that these vastly exceeds those."
Mr Blackburn said the increase in the claim was also the result of Mr Jones recently abandoning previous defences to the claim against him.
The court heard Mr Jones had abandoned a defence of truth in a number of allegations in the defamation case, including allegations of a high level cover up with politicians.
Mr Blackburn said Mr Jones had also abandoned the defence of statutory qualified privilege, which would have required proof that the publishing was reasonable under the circumstances.
"If the statements are not lawfully excusable in some way, then the damages must be very large indeed, because they constitute defamation that is unparalleled, as far as we are aware, in this country, " Mr Blackburn said on Monday, opening the Wagners's case.
He said the alleged defamatory claims were reckless in their baselessness and their repetition, and vicious in their accusations and highly irresponsible, as journalists," Mr Blackburn said on Monday.
The hearing is continuing.