Litigation risk – lawsuits can be a very expensive version of ‘Snakes and Ladders’
Record defamation damages winner (oops, then loser) Jordan Williams has announced he’s going to appeal the ruling striking out the damages bonanza a jury awarded him last year.
As we saw previously (See: ‘About that Jordan Williams damages award…‘), the judge presiding over the defamation action Williams took against Colin Craig struck out the jury’s verdict and the ‘record’ $1.27m damages award made to Williams. That had to hurt.
Judge Sarah Katz issued a carefully reasoned 39-page judgement – available in the footnotes here. (Given the high stakes, no doubt it was written anticipating an appeal.) In her ruling, Judge Katz faulted the jury’s reasoning, its application of guidance from the court, and its understanding/ability to calculate damages.
She described the jury decision to award Jordan Williams 50% more in damages than the Commonwealth’s worst defamation case as a ‘miscarriage of justice’ – warranting a retrial. She also dismantled brick by brick the arguments Williams’s lawyers put up in submissions to try to justify the ‘excessive’ damages award as somehow ‘within the available range’. (See my last post for Andrew Geddis’s analysis of a ‘tactical error’ he thinks Peter McKnight made.)
The decision by Team Williams to appeal her ruling wasn’t really a surprise.
Another option offered – that the two parties (Colin Craig and Williams) should accept the jury finding of defamation(!) and agree to let Judge Katz set a more realistic damages figure – was a non-starter. Why would Craig agree to that?
For his part, Colin Craig told Radio NZ he was relieved at the miscarriage of justice finding, describing the judge’s ruling as “bang on”. (Well he would, wouldn’t he?) “The only correct course coming out of that trial last year was to in fact rule it as a mistrial. The law has been properly exercised in this particular case.”
Craig also said he would not be agreeing to any new damages. “The fact of that matter is Mr Williams simply hasn’t made his case against me yet. He is entitled to take this matter back to court. If he does I will defend myself.”
So, given the choice, Craig opted for retrial … which left Williams with few palatable options. Thus:
Patient Zero Jordan Williams (right) with character witness (pic: @jordnz)
Press Release: Jordan Williams
Friday, 28 April 2017, 4:40 pm
Lawyers for Jordan Williams are appealing the judgment setting aside last year’s jury verdict in the Williams v Craig defamation proceedings.
Mr Williams says, “Colin Craig argued that the jury’s damages award was too high. The judge agreed but the High Court is only able to reset the damages if both parties agree.”
“Last week Colin Craig’s lawyers told Justice Katz that Colin Craig was not willing to have her determine the damages; they want a full retrial.”
“I don’t want Rachel MacGregor or my mother or any other of my witnesses to have to go through it all again. The jury made clear findings. At every stage Mr Craig has wanted to stretch things out. We have no assurance he would not appeal after a new trial. So an appeal now could get to the key issues directly. It is the best way forward.”
You might say it’s sweet and humanising that in his Friday afternoon press release Jordan Williams cited his concern for Ms MacGregor (whom the evidence at court showed he repeatedly deceived, betrayed and lied to, as Judge Katz’s judgement related) and also concern for Williams’s mum – not wanting them “or any other of my witnesses to have to go through it all again”. (Note: ‘my witnesses’.)
I’m sure that trial was gruelling on everybody involved. Continue reading →