Judge holds decision on Little defamation, clears him on others

The jury had found Mr Little did defame Earl Hagaman on one occasion.

Justice Karen Clark has ruled against hotelier Lani Hagaman's claim of defamation by Labour leader Andrew Little but has held the decision on allegations of defamation against Earl Hagaman for further legal argument.

That follows a 12-person jury finding Andrew Little defamed Earl Hagaman once but hung on whether he was protected by privilege.

The jury, in the Wellington High Court, was unanimous that Mr Little did not defame Lani Hagaman.

The jury found although Mr Little did not defame Ms Hagaman in any of the six statements he made, he did defame her husband, Earl Hagaman, on one of six statements.

The jury was hung on whether Mr Little’s defence of qualified privilege would apply to that.

As it could not agree, the jury did not consider whether damages should be paid.

Mr Little was defending a defamation action brought by Scenic’s founders and NBR Rich Listers, Earl and Lani Hagaman.

The Hagamans were seeking a maximum of $2.3 million in damages.

In April last year, the Hagamans made a $101,000 donation to the National Party. A month later, Scenic won a tender to manage the Matavai resort in Niue, which receives funding from the New Zealand government.

Mr Little was being sued over public statements he then made, including saying the donation and the subsequent contract award “stank to high heaven,” along with five other comments he made to media outlets.

The jury was not able to come to a decision on Friday, so deliberations continued today.

Mr Little had previously stated he would be covering all costs that arise from his defamation case with the Scenic Hotel Group founders.

Mr Little said he has a “personal view about taking personal responsibility.”

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