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Nick Kyrgios sued for defamation by tennis fan

News

A tennis fan is taking legal action against Nick Kyrgios after he allegedly called her out during this year’s Wimbledon Men’s Final and allegedly accused her of being drunk and disruptive in front of a worldwide audience. Attwood Marshall Lawyers Commercial Litigation Senior Associate Jade Carlson discusses the case and explains what constitutes defamation.

Background

Polish medical lawyer Ania Palus has launched a defamation case against tennis pro Nick Kyrgios after an event unfolded during the Wimbeldon final in July 2022. Ms Palus was a spectator at the game played between Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic.  During a changeover, Kyrgios allegedly complained to the chair umpire that a spectator was talking to him during play.  When the umpire asked Kyrios to identify the subject, he allegedly pointed to Ms Palus and said words to the effect of “the one in the dress, who looks like she’s had about 700 drinks bro”.

As a result, the chair umpire had Ms Palus temporarily removed from the stadium, but after the match, the Polish medical lawyer claimed she wasn’t drunk and was only trying to encourage Kyrgios. Now Ms Palus is hitting back at Kyrgios for causing her and her family “very substantial damage and distress.”

In a statement released by her lawyers, Ms Palus expressed that the 27-year-old Australian tennis star had defamed her by making “a reckless and entirely baseless allegation”.

She allegedly stated that “not only did this cause considerable harm on the day…but Kyrgios’s false allegation was broadcast to, and read by, millions around the world”.

Ms Palus, has stated  that she has instructed her lawyers to commence legal proceedings against Kyrgios, expressing that she will donate any damages she receives to charity.

She also stated that she hoped that Kyrgios would reflect on the harm he has caused her and her family and offer a prompt resolution to the matter.

If the matter cannot be resolved quickly and effectively, she apparently intends to take it all the way to the High Court.

Does she have a case? What constitutes defamation

Defamation is the publication of material containing unsubstantiated material that harms and / or negatively impacts a person’s reputation.  Defamatory matter can be published by any means of communication, for example written, spoken or pictures.

For a person to be successful in a claim for defamation, the person must be able to establish the following:

  • Information was communicated by a person to a third party;
  • The information identifies the aggrieved person;
  • The information carries defamatory imputations about the aggrieved person; and more recently
  • The publication of defamatory matter has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm to the reputation of the person.


If a person is successful in a claim for damages under the relevant defamation legislation, a person will likely be awarded damages.  The amount of compensation an aggrieved person may be able to claim will depend on the circumstances of the case.  In Australia, damages can range from small amounts to millions of dollars. A significant award is more likely when the publication of defamatory material has been widely publicised, causing the aggrieved person significant reputational harm and quantifiable financial loss.

For example, one of the differences between the Kyrgios matter and the recent defamation-based legal action Lachlan Murdoch has taken against Australian independent news outlet ‘Crikey’ is that the Kyrgios imputations have likely reached millions having been televised and printed internationally across mainstream media. In contrast, Crikey, only has 7,000 subscribers.

No matter the likely damages, court proceedings usually involve significant costs, so you should take any action in defamation very seriously and should always seek appropriate legal advice before contemplating issuing proceedings.

Defamation dispute resolution

When someone believes they have been defamed, the first step is to seek advice from an experienced defamation lawyer to find out where you stand.  The first step will usually be to prepare a ‘concerns notice’ to the person who published the defamatory imputation, requesting that they make an offer to make amends, which will likely include doing one or more of the following:

  • publish or offer to publish a reasonable correction of the matter(s) in question;
  • an offer to pay the expenses reasonably incurred by the aggrieved person;
  • publish or join in publishing an apology in relation to the matter(s) in question;
  • an offer to remove the material from a website or other location;
  • an offer to pay compensation for any economic or non-economic loss of the aggrieved person.


What should you do if threatened with action in defamation?

If you are the publisher of defamatory material and you receive a ‘concerns notice’, you will have 28 days from the date of service of the ‘concerns notice’ to make an offer to make amends.  If you do not make a reasonable offer to make amends within that time period, the aggrieved person may commence proceedings.

If you receive a ‘concerns notice’, it is imperative that you seek legal advice without delay.  Despite the demands made in a ‘concerns notice’, a publisher of defamatory material may have a defence, so it is imperative to consult with an experienced defamation lawyer.

What is the limitation period for bringing defamation proceedings?

The time limit for action in a defamation claim is 12 months following the publication of the defamatory material. If a person fails to commence court proceedings within this period, the person will not be able to bring an action in defamation, without leave of the court.

Attwood Marshall Lawyers – helping negotiate and resolve disputes effectively

If you have experienced defamation and are considering suing, or allegations of defamation have been made against you, seek trusted advice at the earliest opportunity from a defamation lawyer who can help you understand the process and your prospects of making or defending the claim successfully. The most beneficial course of action will depend on your unique circumstances, the seriousness of the defamation and the potential for harm if the defamatory material is not corrected or removed.

Our defamation lawyers can assist in all defamation matters to help you protect your personal and professional reputation.

To find out more, contact our Commercial Litigation Department Manager, Amanda Heather, on her direct line at 07 5506 8245 or email aheather@attwoodmarshall.com.au

Alternatively, you can on call our 24/7 phone line on 1800 621 071 or you can visit any of our offices, which are located at Robina Town Centre, CoolangattaKingscliffBrisbaneSydney or Melbourne.

Read more:

Missing apostrophe in Facebook post lands real estate agent in court for defamation

Peter Dutton loses financially on his defamation “win” as he is ordered to pay a portion of refugee activist’s legal bill: was it all worth it?

Is it defamation if it is true? Understanding the consequences of making statements about someone else publicly

 
 

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Jade Carlson

Senior Associate
Commercial Litigation

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Disclaimer
The contents of this article are considered accurate as at the date of publication. The information contained in this article does not constitute legal advice and is of a general nature only. Readers should seek legal advice about their specific circumstances. 

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