Recently an individual was ordered to pay $357,000 in compensation to a caravan company for Facebook posts, and after failing to abide by the Courts order was sanctioned with 200 hours of community service for continuing to post.
In July 2019 a campervan company called Bruder Expedition Pty Ltd (“Bruder”) sought an injunction against Ms Tracy Leigh from restraining from publishing by any means what so ever any statements, comments or images in relation to the products sold by Bruder.
The decision of the Queensland District Court discussed a number of publications that Ms Leigh had already placed upon a Facebook group called ‘Lemon Caravans & RVs in Aus’. By and large these posts were in relation to complaints about products of Bruder that were allegedly defective, unsafe and of a poor quality.
The Court ultimately ordered that Ms Leigh be, until a trial, restrained from publishing any statements, comments or images by any means whatsoever including on the Facebook page.
On 1 November 2019 a jury found that Ms Leigh had published injurious falsehoods against Bruder which caused Bruder actual loss amounting to $357,000, which the Court ordered Ms Leigh pay to Bruder. The Court also ordered a continuation of the restraint against Ms Leigh in publishing comments, images or statements in relation to Bruder within the Facebook page or in any other manner.
Nevertheless and despite the order and that injunction, Ms Leigh continued to post upon the Lemon Caravans & RVs in Aus Facebook page including reproducing communications from Bruder’s solicitors.
Ultimately Court upon application by Bruder found Ms Leigh in contempt of court. Her Honour Judge Sheridan DCJ ordered Ms Leigh to undertake 200 hours of community service together with an order for costs against her.
Court orders are no trivial thing. Court orders cut through to social media and the online world. If there is an injunction or order taken out against an individual then must be compliance, or else contempt proceedings will result.
This decision is surely going to be replicated in the near future as we continue to see social media become more involved and intersect with actions for deformation and injurious falsehood. Whatever the future may hold, one thing is sure; if a Court orders you not to post, don’t post.
The decision of the Queensland District Court in relation to the contempt proceedings can be found here.