Little gets off defamation – sort of


There jury has returned a muddly verdict in the defamation case the Hagamans took against Andre Little.

Graeme Edgeler was first off the Twitter blocks with the verdicts:

Jury unanimous that Little did not defame Mrs Hagaman.

That doesn’t surprise me, Lani Hagaman wasn’t named so I presume tried to prove defamation be association. I suspect she may have involved herself because of the risk that Earl might die before the trial.

Agree he defamed Mr H. at least once.

That’s no surprise either.

But no agreement on whether he has a defence.

The jury was hung on a defence of qualified privilege.

This also isn’t very surprising, given the political element. It would only take a few jurors to have a political slant that could affect their take on the legals aspects.

In respect of other causes of action, jury deadlocked. So no order of damages as yet. Could be a new trial.

A new trial wouldn’t be good for Little in election year, but with Earl Hagaman’s poor health that seems unlikely.

Retrial limited to questions jury couldn’t agree. Still possibility of settlement, esp. as Mrs H lost, and will be liable for some costs.

I don’t know how costs could be split.

So some relief for Little, but he doesn’t come out of it unscathed politically.

Edgeler has tweeted ” I predict they now settle”. That would be wise.

Stuff: Labour leader Andrew Little cleared of defamation against Lani Hagaman, new trial possible over Earl Hagaman comments

Labour leader Andrew Little has been cleared of defaming Lani Hagaman, but could yet face another trial after the jury could not reach a majority decision on most of his comments about Earl Hagaman.

After more than 13 hours of deliberations across two days, the nine men and three women of the jury found by a majority verdict that Little had not defamed Lani Hagaman in any of the six statements he made.

However, it could not reach a majority decision for Earl Hagaman in four of Little’s six statements on whether the comments were defamatory.

For one statement, the jury agreed by majority that it was defamatory, but could not reach a decision of whether qualified privilege applied. In another statement, it ruled the words were not defamatory.

In a media standup Little said:

The disappointment is we spent six days in the High Court and lot as lot has changed. I certainly stand by the efforts I made to resolve this issue without having to go to court.

“Would you say what you said again?”

There are some other statements that I made in some of the interviews that have been the subject of non-findings that the subject of litigation so I don’t want to go heavily into that.

I understand my job, I understand that there are always risks in my job, and people will feel caught up in a way that they don’t like in my job, and I’m not so schmuckish that I’m not prepared to acknowledge sometimes people do get hurt by things that are said, even though I don’t think they’re defamatory…

The jury ruled that one of Little’s statements was defamatory, one was not defamatory and could not reach a majority verdict on another four.

  …and even though I think I make comments in good faith and in the discharge of my moral obligations.

When I hurt people, which I never intended to do, I’m happy to take responsibility and try and make amends, and I tried to do that on this occasion, but it didn’t work.

“Have you had any advice from your lawyer as to when another trial if there were one would be able to be held?”

No I haven’t had any advice on that. This took seven months to get set down on a fast track, but there’d be other issues to resolve so I don’t know and I haven’t asked.

“Now this process has for all intents and purposes is over except for the possibility of a new case do you have a message or anything to say to Earl and Lani Hagaman personally about this process?”

I’ve given them my message, I’ve been trying to since the end of last year to acknowledge that words I used have caused them hurt, I know that, which is why I was prepared to apologise and did apologise both publicly and in court last week.

“Do you stand by those apologies today?”


UPDATE: Graeme Edgeler has clarified his tweets at Kiwiblog:

Apologies for the misleading tweet.

The jury decision was by majority.

One of the problems with editing a tweet for brevity on a phone outside a courtroom.

There were six causes of action: Little’s initial statement, and then five over statements over the following days (eg media comment and answers to questions). The Hagamans asserted that each of these six statements defamed both Mr Hagaman and Mrs Hagaman.

The jury, by majority (which means 1, 2, or 3 jurors disagreed) found that none of the statements defamed Mrs Hagaman.

They found in respect one of the statements, that Little had not defamed Mr Hagaman.

In respect of one, they found that Little had defamed Mr Hagaman, but could not agree whether he had a defence of qualified privilege.

In respect of the other four statments, they could not agree whether they were defamatory.