Bob Jones to get $80,000 in defamation case costs

Kapiti Coast investment adviser Chris Lee has been ordered to pay property magnate Sir Robert Jones about $80,000 toward his defamation court costs.

However, Sir Robert failed to convince Justice Denis Clifford that he should receive indemnity, or increased, costs.

In May a jury in the High Court at Wellington made a $104,000 defamation award against Mr Lee. It found that articles on his website and various other publications were motivated by ill-will toward Sir Robert, who had claimed $804,000 damages.

A judgment released this week details Justice Clifford’s reasoning on costs.

In seeking indemnity costs, Sir Robert's lawyers said that Mr Lee had acted vexatiously, frivolously, or improperly in going to trial when he should have settled prior.

The issue was whether in defending the case Mr Lee knew, or ought to have known, that he was "embarking on a claim that was bordering on the hopeless."

Sir Robert argued that Mr Lee should have thrown in the towel after his defence of honest opinion was ruled unavailable on the fourth day of the five-day trial.

He had tried to have the defence thrown out on the basis that Mr Lee’s alleged statements of opinion were in fact incorrect statements of fact.

But Justice Clifford ruled out the defence of honest opinion on a different basis – that it did not respond to the “sting” of the alleged defamation.

“Therefore, and although the defence of honest opinion was at the heart of Mr Lee’s defence, and was ruled not to be available to him, I do not consider that his conduct in defending these proceedings was such that an award of indemnity costs would be appropriate.”

Justice Clifford ordered Mr Lee to pay Sir Robert $82,713, reduced by an appropriate amount in relation to Mr Lee's costs at a preliminary hearing before Justice Forrest Miller.

Neither Sir Robert nor Mr Lee were available to speak to NBR this afternoon.

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