After Justice J Katz ruled that a miscarriage of justuice had occurred in the defamation case between Jordan Williams and Colin Craig – see Williams v Craig – costs judged excessive, may be new trial.
Craig has responded saying that it was up to Williams as to whether he wants a new trial as he wouldn’t agree to accept a new damages award from Justice Katz.
In reviewing the case, Justice Katz said the damages were well outside any reasonable range, by a significant margin.
“Viewed objectively, Mr Craig’s statements cannot be said to have been markedly worse than the statements made in all of the previous defamation cases that have come before the court.
“The damages award is well outside of the range that could reasonably have been justified in all the circumstances of the case. The consequence is that a miscarriage of justice has occurred.”
The highest previous amount was the $825,000 awarded to Auckland accountant Michael Stiassny in 2008.
“The Court of Appeal described the case as the worst case of defamation it could find in the British Commonwealth. Mr Craig’s conduct falls far short of that… yet the jury’s total damages award is almost 50 percent greater.”
One could guess from that indication that if the damages award was closer to 50% of the Stiassny award rather than an excessive 50% more that the judge would not have ruled a mistrial.
That would still have been a substantial award for Williams.
This is one of the risks with having a jury in unusual and complex cases – going overboard with their award gave Justice Katz little choice but to throw the case overboard.
Justice Katz said there would either have to be a retrial or the two parties could agree to accept a new damages award.
But Craig has already said that he doesn’t agree with accepting a new damages award.
“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.”
Mr Craig said what happened now was up to Mr Williams, as 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.”
“This is really his decision to make. For me, I’m happy where things are right now.”
Williams has issued a statement:
Statement from Jordan Williams
Responding to this afternoon’s judgment by Her Honour Justice Katz in relation to the Williams v Craig defamation claim, Jordan Williams, says, “The Judge has offered the choice of her resetting the damages, having another jury trial, or we can go to the Court of Appeal. Over the coming days, my lawyers and I will be making those decisions.”
Craig has said that he won’t agree to resetting the damages, so that leaves an appeal or a new trial or leaving it as it is.
This is a tricky situation for Williams. He will already have a substantial legal bill, reportedly hundreds of thousands of dollars. He could double that by going to a new trial and risk coming out with nothing.
And claiming all costs may be difficult, given that Williams had attacked Craig first and over a period of time, and was found to have lied when giving evidence in the trial.