Triguboff v Fairfax Media
Tuesday, July 24, 2018
The Federal Court has struck down a defamation claim before it proceeded to trial, on the basis that the applicant was not actually referred to in the article alleged to be defamatory.
In August 2017, an article was published in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) claiming that property developers such as Meriton were combatting a reduction in sales of low-quality apartments by offering stamp duty rebates to purchasers. Legislation in NSW barred Meriton from suing for defamation, as corporations typically do not have the right to sue for defamation, so Meriton’s managing director Mr Triguboff sued instead.
However, before the actual defamation trial could take place, Fairfax (owners of the AFR) sought to have the claim dismissed. Fairfax argued the article referred only to the company Meriton, and did not reference Mr Triguboff either explicitly or by inference. Accordingly, the article could not be said to have been “about” Mr Triguboff, and so he had no right to sue for defamation.
In response, Mr Triguboff’s lawyers argued that he was widely known to be the managing director of Meriton and therefore the references to Meriton were also references to himself.
The judge ruled in favour of Fairfax, stating that an article about a corporation is not automatically an article about an owner or manager, regardless of that individual’s notoriety in the role. The decision demonstrates that where an article is potentially defamatory to a corporation, owners and managers cannot simply bypass legislative limitations by suing for defamation as individuals.