High Court awards more costs against Slater, SMCL

Legal costs continue to mount for Cameron Slater and the company that ran Whale Oil, Social Media Consultants Limited. Slater has already filed for bankruptcy, and the company is in liquidation.

The latest costs of $59,000 are for pre-trial proceedings and do not include preparing for and conducting the trial held last October, nor damages, neither of which will be determined until next year.

Judgment: BLOMFIELD v SLATER COSTS JUDGMENT [2019] NZHC 1203 [29 May 2019]

[1] By memorandum dated 23 November 2018, Mr Blomfield (the plaintiff), seeks an award of costs against Mr Slater and Social Media Consultants Limited (collectively “the defendants”), in relation to several interlocutory matters.

[4] Following two results judgments on 27 September and 16 October 2018,2 on 26 October 2018, I released a judgment detailing my reasons for ruling in favour of the plaintiff on several interlocutory matters. The interlocutory matters dealt with in those judgments were:

(a) the defendants’ application for security for costs;

(b) the defendants’ application for leave to file a fourth amended statement of defence;

(c) the defendants’ application for leave to file a fifth amended statement of defence;

(d) the defendants’ application for an adjournment of the trial for a day to enable counsel to prepare the fifth amended statement of defence; and

(e) the plaintiff’s application challenging the admissibility of evidence proposed to be adduced by the defendants.

It was Slater’s fourth failed application for security of costs.

Blomfield’s lawyer Felix Geiringer has pointed out that the it was actually Slater’s ninth statement of defence document in the lengthy (over 6 years) lead up to the trial. From the book Whale Oil:

Not withstanding (Judge) Laang’s orders for timetabling – all pleadings by 13 July; all briefs of evidence by 13 August – throughout September Slater embarks on a massive exercise, filing enormous quantities of paperwork, including a new statement of defence, with dozens of amendments and additions, making it substantially different to the document around which Matt and Geiringer have been preparing for trial. It even includes a new defence of public interest; that Slater was doing important civic duty in exposing Matt’s activities.

The material flooding in is overwhelmingly dense, and it’s now two months after the date that wss to have been Slater’s last chance to file his defence.

From the judgment:

[21] The trial was originally due to start on 8 October 2018, and the defendants’ evidence was originally to be filed by 13 August 2018. Two briefs were filed on 21 September 2018, following an unless order made by Wylie J in a Minute issued on 13 September 2018. A notice under r 9.7(6) of the High Court Rules 2016 was also filed by the defendants to the effect that they intended to call 27 witnesses who had not provided briefs of evidence. That notice did not contain the necessary information required by r 9.7(6). The defendants also did not finalise their list of documents to be included in the common bundle until 6 October 2018, two days before the trial was due to commence.

[22] The plaintiff’s counsel says that he urgently assembled a team of five lawyers, who worked extensive hours in an effort to try and preserve the trial fixture. In addition to responding to the defendants’ interlocutory applications, they assembled an electronic casebook ready for a delayed start of the trial scheduled for 23 October
2018. They also prepared reply evidence, submissions and cross examination materials.

[25] For those reasons, I have decided to allow the plaintiff to recover the full amount of costs it seeks on a mixed 3A/3B/3C basis, except for the amount claimed for wasted preparation for trial.

[26] Having considered the disbursements the plaintiff also seeks, I have decided to allow the full amount of $10,160.29.

Result

[27] The plaintiff is entitled to costs and disbursements of $59,000.29 as set out in the annexed schedule.

That adds to the already substantial debts in Slater’s bankruptcy and Social media Consultant’s liquidation.

The only significant assets disclosed so far are the value of the Whale Oil website (whatever that may be), and several hundred thousand dollars of costs awarded to Slater and Social media Consultants – see Slater awarded costs v Craig, but well short of actual costs (with Slater’s legal bills in that proceeding far in excess of costs awarded).

This will take some time to work through, as the damages award is still pending, as is another defamation case Slater (and others) still face versus Sellman, Swinburn and Bradbrook – latest public judgment: SELLMAN v SLATER NO 7 [2019] NZHC 467 [18 March 2019]