“The proposed new defendants (CMR) might have asked the court to consider whether the plaintiff’s reputation, as a person convicted and sentenced for his crimes, could be further materially damaged by the news article reporting them in the context of his deportation. Perhaps, he shares the Black Knight’s bravado, regarding his recent criminal history as “just a flesh wound” and “but a scratch” on his reputation.”
Judge's comments about CMR being added to the lawsuit without usual service
(CMR) Simon Christopher Courtney, a former Cayman corporate lawyer, is seemingly using the Supreme Court of Queensland, to erase all media coverage of him in the Cayman Islands after he was convicted in a January 2015 traffic accident. He recently lost an application to add Cayman Marl Road to the proceedings.
The judge ruled that his request to waive the usual requirements to effect service on us as proposed defendants to be joined to the proceedings would not succeed. We have only learned of this decision today.
Courtney has sued all Cayman news entities that covered his case for defamation in part claiming that he did not “hit and run” but instead “hit and walked” away from the scene of the gruesome accident that left his elderly victims disfigured and fighting for their lives.
This is the first time in Cayman's new history that a plaintiff has sued all local media for defamation arising out of numerous articles covering a person's trial, conviction and subsequent appeal.
In addition, to the potential purging of news content, he is claiming over $4.7 million in economic loss, $376,500 as general compensatory damages and $250,000 as aggravated damages.
In most jurisdictions, media coverage of court proceedings is fiercely protected from defamation lawsuits.
In the astonishing set of circumstances, CMR received documents just this week by way of a local law firm that apparently is merely passing the documents along. Unbeknownst to us, we have been named in his application as well and may have recently been added for an April 2019 article entitled Hit and run lawyer deported.
Courtney names Compass Media Ltd., Cayman News Service Ltd., iNews Cayman Ltd. and other individuals who are associated with these entities among the seven defendants. It appears that Cayman Marl Road was an afterthought as the court filing dated September 20, 2020 indicated Courtney is requesting the court to add as us eight and ninth defendants.
Apparently, he did not seek to add CMR until February 2020 a delay which the court noted “no explanation is offered for the delay” after he became aware of the article.
In his brief accompanying affidavit, he lists his business address at PPM Tax & Legal at 46 Edward St. Brisbane in the State of Queensland and states that filed his claim for damages claiming defamatory publication. Originally from Australia, Courtney returned there in May 2019.
Each of the publications filed a defence to the plaintiff's claims and a statement of claim to which he responded with an amended claim and statement of claim.
He objects to the term “hit and run lawyer” or driver to describe himself and considers it defamatory. This is despite the fact that the courts found him guilty of causing GBH to an elderly American couple and reckless driving on West Bay Road. He was sentenced to three years in prison. He unsuccessfully appealed his conviction after the Court of Appeal panel of judges found the majority of his legal arguments had “no merit” or “no substance”.
Courtney left the scene of the accident and did not make himself available to the authorities until the following morning. He was also convicted of a second DUI and speeding offense in Summary Court after the first case.
His legal issue across all publications appears to be people referring to him as being involved in a hit and run or as a hit and run driver.
In April 2020 Courtney received a legal blow when Bradley J of the Supreme Court of Queensland found that an interlocutory application should be denied. Unbeknownst to CMR he was actually applying to the court to have the legal requirements of their rule 70 waived as it relates to service and adding CMR to the proceedings some 10 months after it commenced against the other media houses.
The judge ruled that he “The plaintiff does not identify the words in the news article he says are defamatory and he does not particularise the words he alleges give rise to each of the five imputations.”
He further noted that had we been served we could have very well argued that the allegations against us were not properly formulated as well as the substance made against us. His application to waive the requirements to serve CMR was refused.
Despite this refusal and the judge's comments about the weakness of the accompanying affidavit his September application appears to use the same affidavit dated February 27. The judge commented on the deficiencies of his application:
“The plaintiff does not identify the words in the news article he says are defamatory and he does not particularise the words he alleges give rise to each of the five imputations. This is not a new issue for the plaintiff”
In paragraph 44 and 45 he noted:
Had the proposed new defendants been served, they might have urged the court not to make them parties until the allegations against them were properly formulated.
The proposed new defendants might also have made submissions about the substance of the proposed pleading against them. It appears to be common ground that the plaintiff was convicted, sentenced and imprisoned. The convictions are matters of public knowledge, having occurred in open court.
The next hearing is scheduled for December 3 and CMR will report on the ongoing aspects of this case.
Below is the Court of Appeal hearing of his appeal: