Brisbane businessman awarded record defamation payout of $287,788
30th Apr 2015
After being targeted online, Justice Richard Flanagan has granted Brisbane businessman Jarrod Sierocki and his business, Insolvency Guardian, a record payout for defamation of $260,000, plus $37,788 interest. The payout was four times as large as the previous highest amount awarded by a Supreme Court judge under a Queensland defamation regime which has capped damages awards since 1995.
Sierocki was targeted by a disgruntled former business partner and client in online material suggesting that he was “an adulterer, a fraud, a criminal, a liar, a conman and a sociopath”. Sierocki had been forced to resign from a Freemason’s lodge, the Knights Templar and the Knights of Malta, as well as his post as chairman of the Brisbane Spartans basketball club as a result of these allegations.
Paul Klerk and Brent Thompson, Sierocki’s former partner and client respectively, attacked him on websites including the US-based ripoffreport.com, from which the material could not be removed, even at their own request.
The online slurs against Sierocki could “never be truly driven underground”, Flanagan said in a written judgment delivered on April 17th as a result of the impossibility of removal from the website. Flanagan said the size of the payout was partly intended to convince people they should ignore the slurs against Sierocki.
As well as attacking him on existing websites, Klerk set up a number of websites which published the slurs, and was revealed to have separately defamed Sierocki by emailing his wife and claiming that he had “had an extra-marital affair, took illegal drugs [and] was an evil person”.
Sierocki’s barrister Alex Nelson stated that the “grave and widespread allegations” had left “a permanent stain” upon his client’s reputation and “vindication” called for “a very large award”.
Neither Thompson nor Klerk, whose solicitors withdrew from representing him during the case, apologised for the defamatory material or attended court for the damages assessment.
Sierocki is running a separate damages lawsuit against Google for featuring the publications and slurs in its search results.