Court
Court

Channel 9 fails in bid to reduce $3.7m defamation payout

Five Channel 9 companies and a journalist have failed to have the amount of defamation damages they must pay Toowoomba's four Wagner brothers reduced on appeal.

In November last year, the Nine Network, four other Nine defendants and journalist Nick Cater were ordered to pay Denis, John, Neill and Joe Wagner a total of almost $3.7 million.

Wagner brothers John, Joe and Denis who, along with Neill Wagner, were awarded $3.7 million in defamation damages over a 60 Minutes program on the Grantham floods disaster. Picture: Annette Dew
Wagner brothers John, Joe and Denis who, along with Neill Wagner, were awarded $3.7 million in defamation damages over a 60 Minutes program on the Grantham floods disaster. Picture: Annette Dew

The defamation damages order came after a Supreme Court jury found a 60 Minutes program that aired on May 24, 2015, defamed the wealthy businessmen brothers.

The program included allegations falsely linking the Wagners' quarry wall's collapse to the Grantham floods disaster.

Justice Peter Applegarth said it was an extraordinarily serious allegation.

The six defendants appealed on six grounds, but their appeal was allowed on only one ground, with the Court of Appeal ordering a variation of the judgment of Justice Applegarth.

The appeal court decision means each defendant must still pay the same amount of damages that they previously were ordered to pay.

The Grantham flood disaster in January 2011. Picture: Jack Tran
The Grantham flood disaster in January 2011. Picture: Jack Tran

They had claimed the judge erred in the different ways in which he awarded ordinary compensatory damages against the Nine defendants and Mr Cater.

However, the new orders now specify the amount of ordinary and aggravated damages to be paid by Mr Cater.

Each of the Nine companies is ordered to pay each Wagner brother $600,000 in defamation damages, including $200,000 in aggravated damages, plus $63,000 in interest.

Mr Cater is ordered to pay each of the Wagners $300,000 in damages for defamation, including $100,000 in aggravated damages, plus $31,500 in interest.

The Nine companies and Mr Cater were unsuccessful in their appeal ground that the amount of damages was manifestly excessive.

The trial judge found that the Nine Network defendants were sued over the whole of the 60 Minutes program, while Mr Cater was only sued over his words in an interview republished in the program.

The defendants were unsuccessful in appealing against other aspects of Justice Applegarth's findings.


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