Neill, John and Denis Wagner leave the Supreme Court in Brisbane. Picture: Glenn Hunt
Neill, John and Denis Wagner leave the Supreme Court in Brisbane. Picture: Glenn Hunt

Channel 9 says Wagners were ‘doubly compensated’

CHANNEL 9 has told a court the wealthy Queensland family they were ordered to pay almost $4 million to in defamation damages were “doubly compensated”.

Toowoomba’s four Wagner brothers were each awarded $600,000 in defamation damages from Channel 9, plus $63,000 in interest, after being defamed on a 60 Minutes program.

The program falsely linked their quarry wall’s collapse to the catastrophic Grantham floods.

Channel 9 journalist Nick Cater was also ordered to pay Denis, John, Neill and Joe Wagner $300,000 damages each, plus $31,500 in interest.

Journalist Nick Cater was ordered to pay each brother $300,000 each plus interest. Picture: AAP
Journalist Nick Cater was ordered to pay each brother $300,000 each plus interest. Picture: AAP

Nine Network Australia, four other Nine defendants and Mr Cater asked the Queensland Court of Appeal on Monday to set aside the cost orders handed down in November last year, arguing they had been miscalculated and should have been lower.

Channel 9’s barrister Sandy Dawson said that the Wagners were effectively awarded “double compensation”.

Mr Dawson said Mr Cater and Nine were jointly liable for the imputations made by the 60 Minutes program about the Wagners, but the brothers were “compensated for Mr Cater’s words twice”.

“ … it’s wrong to treat Mr Cater’s words as some sort of separate publication,” Mr Dawson said.

But the Wagners’ barrister Tom Blackburn said it was “outrageous” that Nine would ask the Court of Appeal to reassess the damages on a joint liability basis when that was never put to a lower court.

“My clients should not be put through the wringer this way of having a brand new issue raised against them on appeal,” he said.

Nine also appealed on the grounds that the Wagners should not have been awarded aggravated damages because of the defendants’ failure to correct, retract or apologise.

Mr Dawson said there was no evidence that the Wagners’ hurt was aggravated by Nine not giving an apology.

He said Nine had not issued an apology sooner because the network “still had a reasonable defence” that they had not defamed the family.

But Mr Blackburn said Nine must have known their “lurid and insinuating” report was false when an inquiry “debunked” their report.

The Grantham floods commission of inquiry found in 2015 that the Wagners’ sand quarry did not contribute to the disaster.

Mr Blackburn said Nine also had the opportunity to apologise after the brothers’ “vindication” in the lawsuit against broadcaster Alan Jones.

In 2018, Mr Jones, his employer Harbour Radio Pty Ltd and Radio 4BC were ordered to pay the Wagners defamation damages.

The Court of Appeal reserved its decision to a later date. – NewsRegional



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