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Court awards PJ Patterson $12 million in defamation suit

Featured Court awards PJ Patterson $12 million in defamation suit
KINGSTON, Jamaica Oct. 30 -  The Supreme Court on Thursday awarded former Prime Minster P.J Patterson $12.5 million in damages in the libel case against Nationwide News Network and its head Cliff Hughes. The amount could skyrocket to $20-million when costs are added.

The award resulted from a story aired in 2009 that defamed Mr. Patterson. It concerned an incident at Norman Manley International Airport involving a special charter flight from Cuba. Mr. Patterson was among the passengers.

In her judgement, Justice Paulette Williams highlighted key issues in coming to her conclusion. She argued in part that: "...the fact that at the time the information was received, it may well have been considered to be a subject matter of public concern, and the information turned out to be false and this meant, that in reality the public received misinformation."

Justice Williams added that the story was broadcast to many listeners and ought not to have entered the public domain.

She said it later turned out to be the kind of story which would have been of much interest to someone who had an interest scandals.

Justice Williams also noted that Nationwide contended that it had received 20 pieces of information throughout the day and this was followed by information received from the Solicitor General.

Nationwide also contended that it had asserted, in its defence, that the broadcast addressed issues of public interest and, in all the circumstances, it was under a moral and social duty to broadcast the information about Mr. Patterson.

Lead counsel for Mr. Patterson, K.D. Knight, said the outcome was not a surprise.

He said several attempts were made to have the matter dealt with out of court, to no avail; "and having to court, we felt very comfortable with the case that we had to deal with."

He said money was never an issue for Mr. Patterson.

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