DECISION FOR DAMAGES HANDED DOWN IN LEMON LANDMARK CASE …

NEWS Bruder vs Lemon Caravans and RVs - Part 1

WORDS MARTY LEDWICH

High-end camper manufacturer, Bruder’s Expedition Pty Ltd, has successfully sued the administrator of the Lemon Caravans and RVs in Aust Facebook Group, Ms Tracy Leigh, for injurious falsehood and was awarded damages totalling $357,000.

The landmark decision follows a 10-day hearing in the Brisbane District Court before Judge Susan Sheridan, former Deputy President of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

Earlier this year, a member of Ms Leigh’s lemon group, Lisa Desmond, published a post on the group with a link to a website authored by a Mr Charles J Coles, a disgruntled customer of Bruder. Ms Leigh published a comment stating, “I am hoping by showing this to 45,000 members that Bruder might pick up their act. Losing a sale would cost them a fortune”.

In July, Bruder solicitors wrote to Ms Leigh demanding she remove the offending posts. In response, Ms Leigh published the letter on her group and saying they (Bruder) will fail in its attempt to prove injurious falsehood. She further taunted Bruder by posting “If you think I’m going to be intimidated, think again”.

However, the case appears set to continue

Daniel and Toby Bosschieter of Bruder. Image: australianevents.com.au

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Later in July, Judge Sheridan placed an injunction upon Ms Leigh pending the outcome of the hearing. In her ruling, Judge Sheridan said Bruder had shown there was a “prima facie case” for injurious falsehood and that there was “evidence before the court in relation to a number of posts by readers as to the impact that the posts have had on their intentions” to purchase from Bruder.

Ms Leigh was represented by Anthony Morris QC, who lists defamation as one of his areas of practice. Bruder was represented by Mark D Martin QC who is also a defamation specialist.

Sources who attended court told RV Daily the trial began in rather unusual circumstances, when, on the first day, Ms Leigh claimed she believed she would be facing a jury trial. Judge Sheridan informed Ms Leigh that she wanted a jury trial, she would have to bear the costs. Ms Leigh agreed and a four-person jury was installed the following day.

The court heard that Ms Leigh had published the details of Mr Coles's case despite his request to her not to do so. Ms Leigh said she ignored Mr Coles's wishes because she felt publishing the information would be in the interest of her group's members. Bruder claimed many of the comments that followed were defamatory in nature and eventually cost them sales.

ABOVE Tracy Leigh. Image credit: AAP Image - Attila Csaszar

“The court heard Ms Leigh didn’t accept the jury’s decision in the previous injurious falsehood case and that she had shown no remorse for her wrongdoings.”

Central to Ms Leigh's case was her claim that Mr Coles's Bruder camper was unsafe and ‘could have killed him’ due to a crack that had developed in a component of the suspension. Despite naming Mr Colin Young of the Caravan Council of Australia as a witness, he was not called to give evidence. Bruder offered testimony from an independent expert witness, Dr Frank Grigg of Forensic Engineering Consulting. He told the court Mr Coles was in no immediate danger, and likely would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary while towing the camper. Bruder also told the court they had conducted tests of its own including completely removing the part in question and found the camper could still be safely towed without it.

Almost immediately following the hearing, Ms Leigh announced on her group that she had been instructed not to say anything about the outcome of the trial until such time as the final orders were filed in the court and, depending on the final orders, she said she may not be able to comment at all. Ms Leigh subsequently archived her group and closed off commenting on all posts.

The next day, Ms Leigh announced she had un-archived the group saying she could not sit back quietly while others promoted their rival groups. She claimed those groups had been set up to mislead and divert victims from her group.

Then in a separate post, Ms Leigh made further allegations that Bruder 'misleads and deceives consumers' and accused them of lying in court over an expired Australian patent for their unique suspension. In the post she said, “This is allegedly misleading and deceptive conduct that I believe was designed to mislead consumers”.

Ms Leigh also launched renewed attacks on two of her old adversaries, the Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA), accusing them of misleading and deceptive conduct over their RVMAP accreditation program and Lotus Caravans warning one of her group members that their intention to purchase a Lotus was “a very bad idea”.

Ms Leigh also published a post both on her group and on the Off-Road Caravanning Australia (ORCA) group requesting funds to help pay for an appeal. In that post she said, “… it is hard to fight against an entity that will stop at nothing to win including lying under oath”.

Her comments on the Bruder case landed Ms Leigh back in court, this time accused of contempt.

The hearing before Judge Clare SC, was held in the Brisbane District Court on November 13. The court heard Ms Leigh didn’t accept the jury’s decision in the previous injurious falsehood case and that she had shown no remorse for her wrongdoings.

The penalty for contempt of court is a maximum of three years imprisonment or a fine of over $26,000 if the act of contempt involves non-compliance with a court order.

Judge Clare has reserved her decision.

Ms Leigh later released a statement acknowledging that she had been found liable for injurious falsehood and that her counsel, Mr Morris QC, was preparing to lodge an appeal against the decision.

The case has generated enormous interest and divided opinions throughout the Australian RV community. Some see the outcome as long overdue while others feel it’s a blow against free speech. One thing is for certain, given the commitment both Bruder and Ms Leigh have shown towards their individual causes, this fight has some way to run yet.

We continue to observe developments as interested spectators.

NEWS Bruder vs Lemon Caravans and RVs - Part 1

DECISION FOR DAMAGES HANDED DOWN IN LEMON LANDMARK CASE …

WORDS MARTY LEDWICH

However, the case appears set to continue

High-end camper manufacturer, Bruder’s Expedition Pty Ltd, has successfully sued the administrator of the Lemon Caravans and RVs in Aust Facebook Group, Ms Tracy Leigh, for injurious falsehood and was awarded damages totalling $357,000.

The landmark decision follows a 10-day hearing in the Brisbane District Court before Judge Susan Sheridan, former Deputy President of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).

Earlier this year, a member of Ms Leigh’s lemon group, Lisa Desmond, published a post on the group with a link to a website authored by a Mr Charles J Coles, a disgruntled customer of Bruder. Ms Leigh published a comment stating, “I am hoping by showing this to 45,000 members that Bruder might pick up their act. Losing a sale would cost them a fortune”.

In July, Bruder solicitors wrote to Ms Leigh demanding she remove the offending posts. In response, Ms Leigh published the letter on her group and saying they (Bruder) will fail in its attempt to prove injurious falsehood. She further taunted Bruder by posting “If you think I’m going to be intimidated, think again”.

Image credit: Australianevents.com.au

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SCROLL TO CONTINUE

Later in July, Judge Sheridan placed an injunction upon Ms Leigh pending the outcome of the hearing. In her ruling, Judge Sheridan said Bruder had shown there was a “prima facie case” for injurious falsehood and that there was “evidence before the court in relation to a number of posts by readers as to the impact that the posts have had on their intentions” to purchase from Bruder.

Ms Leigh was represented by Anthony Morris QC, who lists defamation as one of his areas of practice. Bruder was represented by Mark D Martin QC who is also a defamation specialist.

Sources who attended court told RV Daily the trial began in rather unusual circumstances, when, on the first day, Ms Leigh claimed she believed she would be facing a jury trial. Judge Sheridan informed Ms Leigh that she wanted a jury trial, she would have to bear the costs. Ms Leigh agreed and a four-person jury was installed the following day.

The court heard that Ms Leigh had published the details of Mr Coles's case despite his request to her not to do so. Ms Leigh said she ignored Mr Coles's wishes because she felt publishing the information would be in the interest of her group's members. Bruder claimed many of the comments that followed were defamatory in nature and eventually cost them sales.

ABOVE Tracy Leigh. Image credit: AAP Image - Attila Csaszar

“The court heard Ms Leigh didn’t accept the jury’s decision in the previous injurious falsehood case and that she had shown no remorse for her wrongdoings.”

Central to Ms Leigh's case was her claim that Mr Coles's Bruder camper was unsafe and ‘could have killed him’ due to a crack that had developed in a component of the suspension. Despite naming Mr Colin Young of the Caravan Council of Australia as a witness, he was not called to give evidence. Bruder offered testimony from an independent expert witness, Dr Frank Grigg of Forensic Engineering Consulting. He told the court Mr Coles was in no immediate danger, and likely would not have noticed anything out of the ordinary while towing the camper. Bruder also told the court they had conducted tests of its own including completely removing the part in question and found the camper could still be safely towed without it.

Almost immediately following the hearing, Ms Leigh announced on her group that she had been instructed not to say anything about the outcome of the trial until such time as the final orders were filed in the court and, depending on the final orders, she said she may not be able to comment at all. Ms Leigh subsequently archived her group and closed off commenting on all posts.

The next day, Ms Leigh announced she had un-archived the group saying she could not sit back quietly while others promoted their rival groups. She claimed those groups had been set up to mislead and divert victims from her group.

Then in a separate post, Ms Leigh made further allegations that Bruder 'misleads and deceives consumers' and accused them of lying in court over an expired Australian patent for their unique suspension. In the post she said, “This is allegedly misleading and deceptive conduct that I believe was designed to mislead consumers”.

Ms Leigh also launched renewed attacks on two of her old adversaries, the Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA), accusing them of misleading and deceptive conduct over their RVMAP accreditation program and Lotus Caravans warning one of her group members that their intention to purchase a Lotus was “a very bad idea”.

Ms Leigh also published a post both on her group and on the Off-Road Caravanning Australia (ORCA) group requesting funds to help pay for an appeal. In that post she said, “… it is hard to fight against an entity that will stop at nothing to win including lying under oath”.

Her comments on the Bruder case landed Ms Leigh back in court, this time accused of contempt.

The hearing before Judge Clare SC, was held in the Brisbane District Court on November 13. The court heard Ms Leigh didn’t accept the jury’s decision in the previous injurious falsehood case and that she had shown no remorse for her wrongdoings.

The penalty for contempt of court is a maximum of three years imprisonment or a fine of over $26,000 if the act of contempt involves non-compliance with a court order.

Judge Clare has reserved her decision.

Ms Leigh later released a statement acknowledging that she had been found liable for injurious falsehood and that her counsel, Mr Morris QC, was preparing to lodge an appeal against the decision.

The case has generated enormous interest and divided opinions throughout the Australian RV community. Some see the outcome as long overdue while others feel it’s a blow against free speech. One thing is for certain, given the commitment both Bruder and Ms Leigh have shown towards their individual causes, this fight has some way to run yet.

We continue to observe developments as interested spectators.

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