E-mail defamation

Posted: 13th January 2012

When a person’s reputation is attacked publicly, a claim for damages for defamation may result. Over the years, the courts have repeatedly had to consider the issue of what constitutes ‘publication’ of the defamatory material.
Until recently, the courts have not looked favourably on cases brought where the defamatory material was only seen by a very few people. The likely damages to be awarded must be considered against the cost of bringing the action, which, in cases involving defamation, are always substantial.
However, in a case brought earlier this year, the court refused to halt an action for defamation which was based on a single email being sent to a single recipient.
Significant in the decision was the fact that the accusations made were serious (that the claimants were involved in fraud) and that the level of damages assessed if the claim were successful might be considerable.
Incautious comments that can damage the reputations of others are unwise, especially in an age when such comments can be very rapidly circulated.
We can advise you on appropriate internal policies to help ensure that actions by employees do not have adverse consequences for your business.