Caslon Analytics elephant logo title for Defamation profile
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This page offers some indicators of awards and other data.

It covers -

subsection heading icon     awards

Korieh Duodu commented of the UK in 2005 that

The advantages to both claimants and defendants of settling claims early has seen a gradual downturn in the number of libel cases fought all the way to final judgment. However, the media will continue to make mistakes, reputations will continue to be threatened and cases will still be pursued. If media groups still feel chilly, then they might make better use of the warm clothing which recent law reforms have offered.

Dennis Hale's 2002 The Impact of State Prohibitions of Punitive Damages on Libel Litigation: An Empirical Analysis (PDF) asked whether US state prohibitions on punitive damages influence the quantity and quality of media libel litigation, concluding that there was no effect.

What is the price of a reputation ... or merely the damage to an individual's honour and repute in a particular instance? Substantial awards or pre-trial settlements have gained attention along with famously derisory - or merely coolheaded - awards such as the farthing awarded to the agrieved Whistler.

There is considerable dispute about whether awards by juries (and decisions by appeal courts) are reflecting an 'inflation' in damages awarded for physical injury. Unsurprisingly it appears that some awards serve as a threshold. One example is the 1995 decision in Hill v. Church of Scientology, a Canadian case in which the appeal court upheld an award of C$1.6 million. Prior to that time the highest damages upheld on appeal in a Canadian defamation case was C$135,000. By 2000 awards of C$500,000 were not uncommon.

The MLRC Report noted earlier in this profile identifies a long-term increase in the average and median initial awards after trial, with initial trial awards rising from a 1980s average of US$1.5 million to a 1990s average of just under US$3 million and an average US$3.4 million since 2000. The 1980s median of US$200,000 rose to US$350,000 in the 1990s and US$724,500 since 2000.

subsection heading icon     costs

What is the indicative cost of defamation action in Australia and elsewhere?

The answer again is not clear, because instances where legal costs were reported - typically by those boasting how much they were happy to pay to defend their honour or by litigants when costs were awarded to an opponent - may not be representative. In the UK and Australia there have been cases (such as the David Irving case) where costs for barristers, associates and experts went over the million dollar mark. Elsewhere this site notes suggestions that government figures in Singapore, Malaysia, Austria and elsewhere have consciously used defamation law as a tool to silence criticism, including impoverishing opponents through suits that exhaust the opponent's financial resources and energy

In practice, apart from personal anguish, the major cost of most defamation regimes may lie in the day to day handling of complaints and queries. In 2002 the UK Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) for example claimed that responding to defamation complaints - substantive or otherwise - about online content costs between £50 and £1,000, a concern broadly endorsed by the 2002 Law Commission report (PDF).

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version of July 2006
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