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Clive Palmer & Mark McGowan waste scarce court resources and taxpayer money for petty defamatory battle – Libel & Defamation



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Federal Court Justice Michael Lee expressed
that as Clive Palmer rejected Mark
McGowan’s
offer to settle back in December last year,
Palmer would need to pay part of McGowan’s defamation costs.

“Both men went too far in their political jousting and both
men litigated, but only one was willing to draw back and avoid the
long and costly hearing” Lee said.

With the court finding that both Palmer and McGowan defamed each other,
there has likely been no benefit in this legal battle. The damages
awarded are far from their legal expenses. $20,000 has been awarded
to McGowan, which is less than his lawyer
Bret Walker SC who charges more than $20,000 a
day. Palmer has been awarded $5000.

The origins of the defamatory battle:

In late 2020, Palmer begun a
defamation action against McGowan for comments
made against him that “hurt his feelings.”
McGowan then counter-sued stating that Palmer
defamed him in the media. McGowan then tried to
settle this matter which Palmer rejected.

McGowan was able to recover his legal costs
because of the offer to walk away from the proceedings earlier.
This was made on an ordinary basis not an indemnity basis. The
reason for this according to Justice Lee was
because of the mixed outcome of the cross claim. These costs
protect parties who try to reasonably settle proceedings before
trial.

Ordinary legal costs v Indemnity costs

There are two types of legal costs recoverable from an opposing
party, ordinary costs or indemnity costs.

Ordinary costs are also known as ‘party/party’ costs and
they do not usually cover all of the legal costs obtained by a
successful party. It is usually 60% to 75% of actual costs
incurred.

Indemnity costs are all fees, charges, disbursements,
expenditures, and compensation incurred by a party to litigation in
carrying out proceedings. However, this is only as long as they
were not unreasonable or excessive.

A party can recover costs on an indemnity basis where they made
a legally correct offer of settlement, where the outcome would have
been more favourable to the losing party than the actual judgement
that was made. The indemnity costs are only applicable from the
date of that offer.

Defamation costs: Court’s limited resources wasted and
taxpayer’s money drained

The judge criticised both McGowan and Palmer for wasting the
courts’ time.

“The notion that Mr Palmer and Mr McGowan are equally
responsible for these proceedings having consumed significant
private and public resources cannot be reconciled with the
objective facts.” Lee stated.

While Palmer had been covering his legal expenses, McGowan’s
legal fees has been covered by taxpayers. The WA state budget in
September 2021 detailed how the state had already
spent $1.47 million fighting a series of legal battles brought
against by Palmer.

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