Trailer trasher cops six-figure fine for online slurs
A KEYBOARD warrior has been found liable to the tune of $357,000 over disparaging Facebook comments about a Brisbane caravan company, and is in hot water again for allegedly repeating them.
Tracy Leigh, a disability pensioner who moderates a 50,000-strong Facebook group for owners of "lemon" caravans, was found by a jury to have "maliciously" injured the reputation of the company with false claims their vans were defective, unsafe and could "kill" someone.
Just two days after the District Court trial ended this month and the jury found her liable for "injurious falsehood", assessing damages at $357,000, it is alleged Ms Leigh posted online "the same or similar" comments she had been found liable for.
She has been accused of contempt of court over the fresh posts, as there was a court order gagging her from republishing the false claims.
Ms Leigh, who claimed in court documents she was "quite a well-known public figure", is alleged to have arranged to have a post made on the 'Off-road Caravanning in Australia Facebook' page.
Barrister Mark Martin QC, for high-end off-road caravan company Bruder Expedition Pty Ltd, argued Ms Leigh knew there was a gag order made by Judge Suzanne Sheridan.
"She doesn't accept the jury's finding," Mr Martin told Judge Clare.
"There's no contrition; there's no remorse."
Simon Trewavas, counsel for Ms Leigh, said Bruder Expedition had not made it clear how precisely Ms Leigh had breached the order and whether she was aware she was breaching it.
"There could have been no doubt in (Ms Leigh's) mind exactly what this order meant," Mr Martin submitted.
Mr Martin submitted that Ms Leigh acknowledged in her November Facebook posts that she was "restricted in saying anything about" the injurious falsehood lawsuit.
Mr Martin is alleging Ms Leigh has committed a civil contempt, or disobedience of a court order, not a criminal contempt, and is also seeking a further injunction gagging her from continuing to disparage Bruder Expedition.
In the jury trial Bruder claimed it lost gross profits from a "significant drop in sales" in May, June and July of $480,000, and it was required to hire a salesperson to combat the negative publicity on a salary of $95,000.
Bruder, owned by brothers Daniel and Toby Bosschieter, claims it lost six caravan sales after Ms Leigh injured the reputation of the company in posts to the 47,000 followers of her Facebook page 'Lemon Caravans & RVs in Aus' on June 30 this year and again in July.
Judge Clare has reserved her decision on whether Ms Leigh is liable for contempt of court and if so, what penalty she should face.