High Court hears argument in Google LLC v Defteros [2022] on 3 May 2022

May 9, 2022

The Full Bench of the High Court heard argument in Google LLC v Defteros [2022].  It is a case of considerable interest to defamation practitioners.  The key issue is whether a search engine a publisher of defamatory material on a third party website to which that search engine provides a hyperlink when the search result on its own conveys no defamatory imputation.  Also Google seeks a ruling on what is required to notify the search engine of defamatory publication for the purposes of the common law doctrine of innocent dissemination and the statutory defence under section 32 of the Defamation Act 2005. 

The transcript of oral argument before their Honours can be found here.

It is an appeal from a decision from the Victorian Court of Appeal in Defteros v Google LLC [2021] VSCA 167 (17 June 2021).  Interestingly on that occasion the appellant, Defteros, was unsuccessful.  Google’;s cross application for leave to appeal was refused. 

Special leave was granted on 10 December 2021 conditional upon Google paying Defteros’s costs of the appeal and not disturbing the costs orders in the Court of Appeal and at trial.  The transcript of the Special Leave Application can be found here.  In short, there is a public interest in resolving the issue. 

The essence of Google’s submissions is that the trial judge and the Victorian Court of Appeal erroneously found that the provision of a hyperlink was participation in the communication of defamatory material for the purpose of publication.  

The submissions of both parties can be found Read the rest of this entry »

Stubbings v Jams 2 Pty Ltd [2022] HCA 6 (16 March 2022); equity, unconscionable conduct, reliance on certificates of independent advice

March 30, 2022

In a 5 – 0 decision the High Court allowed an appeal from the Victorian Supreme Court in Stubbings v Jams 2 Pty Ltd [2022] HCA 6 and the operation of certificates of independent advice and unconscionable conduct.  The lead judgment is that of Kiefel CJ, Keane and Gleeson with separate opinions by Gordon and Steward.


The facts

The appellant owned two houses in Narre Warren, both mortgaged to Commonwealth Bank with weekley repayments of between $260 and $280 per week. The appellant did not live in either house.  He lived at rental premises at Boneo, where he worked repairing boats for the owner of the property [7].

The Appellant fell out with the owner,  ceased work and, needing to move house, sought to purchase another property on the Mornington Peninsua [7].

At the relevant time the appellant:

  • was unemployed
  • had no regular income
  • had not filed tax returns in several years and
  • was in arrears on rates payments in respect of the two Narre Warren properties [8]

After a home loan application to ANZ was rejected for lack of financial records, the appellant was introduced to Mr Zourkas [8] who described himself as a “consultant”, in the business of introducing potential borrowers to Ajzensztat Jeruzalski & Co (“AJ Lawyers”) [9]. The service AJ Lawyers provided to clients was to facilitate the making of secured loans by those clients [9].

The primary judge found that Zourkas played an “important and essential” role in these transactions, in that his involvement ensured that AJ Lawyers never dealt directly with the borrower or guarantor, such as the appellant [9]

When the appellant and Zourkas met on a number of occasions in 2015:

  • at the first meeting, the appellant said that he “wanted to buy a little house” to live in, to which Mr Zourkas responded that “there would not be a problem going bigger and getting something with land”  O which resulted in the appellant finding a five?acre property with two houses on it in Fingal, available for $900,000.
  • at another meeting, Zourkas told the appellant that he could borrow a sum sufficient to pay out the existing mortgages over the Narre Warren properties, purchase the Fingal property, and have approximately $53,000 remaining to go towards the first three months’ interest on the loan [10] .
  •  Zourkas advised the appellant that he could then sell the Narre Warren properties, reducing the loan to approximately $400,000, which the appellant could then refinance with a bank at a lower interest rate [10]

The calculation was that:

  • two Narre Warren properties and the Fingal property would secure the appellant’s obligations as guarantor
  • the existing debt to Commonwealth Bank secured on the Narre Warren properties totalled approximately $240,000.
  • on the basis that the two properties had a market value of $770,000, the appellant’s equity was thus worth about $530,000 [11].

On 30 June 2015, the appellant signed a contract to Read the rest of this entry »

Trkulja v Google LLC [2018] HCA 25 (13 June 2018): Defamation, publication, summary dismissal, imputations arising out search engine results

September 2, 2018

The High Court in Trkulja v Google LLC [2018] HCA 25 upheld an appeal from the Victorian Court of Appeal regarding a summary judgment application. It is a very significant decision in relation to pleading the of defamation when the imputations arise from search engine results.


While not enamoured of the drafting the Court noted that the Appellant’s (Trkulja”) Amended Statement of Claim was  sufficiently comprehensible to convey that Trkulja alleged that:

  • Google defamed him by publishing images which convey imputations that he:
    • “is a hardened and serious criminal in Melbourne”, in the same league as figures such as “convicted murderer” Carl Williams, “underworld killer” Andrew “Benji” Veniamin, “notorious murderer” Tony Mokbel and “Mafia Boss” Mario Rocco Condello;
    • is an associate of Veniamin, Williams and Mokbel; and
    • is “such a significant figure in the Melbourne criminal underworld that events involving him are recorded on a website that chronicles crime in [the] Melbourne criminal underworld”[3].
  • Google published the defamatory images between 1 December 2012 and 3 March 2014 to persons in Victoria, including several named persons, upon those persons accessing the Google website, searching for  Trkulja’s name or alias (Michael Trkulja and Milorad Trkulja), and then viewing and perceiving the images presented on-screen in response to the search [4].
  • the allegedly defamatory matters  comprising two groups:
    • “the Google Images matter” and
    • “the Google Web matter” [5]
  • some of the pages include an image that contains text stating, inter alia, “Google lawsuit in court”, “COLOURFUL Melbourne identity Michael Trkulja” and “Mr Trkulja an associate of Mick Gatto” [7]
  •  the images matter and the web matter are defamatory of  Trkulja in their natural and ordinary meaning and  carry the following defamatory imputations:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Honourable Geoffrey Nettle appointed to the High Court today

December 4, 2014

The Attorney General has announced the welcome appointment of Justice Nettle to the High Court  today.

The release provides Read the rest of this entry »

Expense Reduction Analysts Group Pty Ltd v Armstrong Strategic Management and Marketing Pty Limited [2013] HCA 46 (6 November 2013): Practice and procedure, Discovery, documents subject to client legal privilege mistakenly listed as non-privileged in appellants’ Lists of Documents, privileged documents inadvertently disclosed to respondents’ solicitors

November 21, 2013

In Expense Reduction Analysts Group Pty Ltd v Armstrong Strategic Management and Marketing Pty Limited [2013] HCA 46 the High Court, in a unanimous decision, considered a dispute that arose in the discovery process, namely whether the inadvertent disclosure of documents for which privilege should have been claimed gave rise to a waiver.  The court however went much further and set its stamp on how it regarded such disputes should be handled.


The appellants were represented by Norton Rose Australia (Norton Rose).  The respondents were represented by Marque Lawyers (Marque). On 22 July 2011 parties to litigation Read the rest of this entry »

Kakavas v Crown Melbourne Limited [2013] HCA 25 (5 June 2013): High court reviews the principle of unconscionable conduct, the operation of equity and the nature of special disadvantage

June 13, 2013

 In a unanimous decision the High Court in Kakavas v Crown Melbourne Limited [2013] HCA 25 rejected an appeal by Harry Kakavas against Crown Casino in equity.  The court undertook a detailed analysis of the principles of unconscionable conduct and special disadvantage.


Kakavas submitted, at [6], that the principles of Amadio applied, particularly that “..whenever one party by reason of some condition or circumstance is placed at a special disadvantage vis-à-vis another and unfair or unconscientious advantage is then taken of the opportunity thereby created”. He also submitted that Crown had constructive notice of his special disadvantage [150].

Crown submitted:

  1. that Kakavas’ abnormally strong urge to gamble was not a compulsion which deprived him of the ability to make a worthwhile choice whether or not to gamble, or to continue to gamble, with Crown or anyone else [11];
  2. Crown’s employees did not knowingly exploit the appellant’s abnormal interest in gambling. Kakavas presented as a successful businessman able to afford to indulge himself in the high stakes gambling in which he chose to engage [11]
  3. Kakavas suffered no compensable loss [12]


 The court undertook a detailed overview of the principle of equitable fraud.  When the considering the principles of equity enunciated in Amadio their Honours stated:

“..the task of the courts is to determine whether the whole course of dealing between the parties has been such that, as between the parties, responsibility for the plaintiff’s loss should be ascribed to unconscientious conduct on the part of the defendant.”

When seeking equitable intervention their Honours stated the following:

  1. the principle which the appellant invokes Read the rest of this entry »

Speech by UK Supreme Court Justice on privacy in the 21st Century

December 11, 2012

Lord Neuberger gave a speech to the UK Association of Jewish Lawyers on 28 November titled Privacy in the 21st Century.

It is an excellent consideration of the history of privacy protections in the UK and a thoughtful analysis of future challenges.  It should be required reading for those with an interest in privacy and privacy related jurisprudence.

It provides, absent citations:

(1) Introduction1
1. Good evening. It is a pleasure to have been asked to give tonight’s lecture. Privacy is a subject which seems to be forever topical. It excites (in both senses of the word) public discussion, while demanding considered reflection. And it raises many difficult and, often, controversial questions. Is privacy a value which society should protect? If so, to what extent? Is protection of privacy a fetter on freedom of expression? If so, can and should a balance be struck between them? And if so, what type of balance? Should, for instance, freedom of expression always trump privacy, as it is sometimes suggested is the position in the United States? A suggestion, I may add, which ignores a variety of US statutes and constitutional provisions which protect certain aspects of privacy to varying degrees, subject to the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech and expression.
2. And is privacy a value which is, on deeper analysis, not inimical to or a fetter on freedom of expression: is it actually a necessary and vital aspect of freedom of expression? Or should we maintain the straightforward and generally held view that the two are wholly distinct, indeed often in conflict?
3. These are all difficult questions. They go to the heart of issues concerning Read the rest of this entry »

Verified by MonsterInsights