Court reserves decision in $1 million defamation case

The Supreme Court has reserved its decision in a $1 million defamatory lawsuit brought by a priest against a relative and a local television station.

Father Muliau Matulino Stowers, Tupa’i Farani Mulitalo, Poe Stowers and Afa Mulitalo Poe filed a lawsuit against Julieanne Stowers and the Samoa Broadcasting Corporation, TV1. 

The lawsuit is in relation to a published notice alleging that the plaintiff, Fr. Muliau and others were not entitled to use the first respondent’s surname, Stowers. That notice was published by TV1 in 2015.

Last year a Court of Appeal overturned a Supreme Court decision and allowed an appeal from Fr. Muliau and others against Ms. Julieanne Stowers and the TV station.  

The Court ordered that the case be remitted to the same Supreme Court Judge to assess damages. 

“It would be wrong for us to say anything definitive on that subject, however the Judge may wish to hear argument on the possible relevant of the appellants’ conduct in 2005 and the respondents’ reliance on the finding of a public official in 2015,” stated the Court of Appeal ruling.  

Back in the Supreme Court on Friday, Justice Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala-Warren gave the parties involved a week to discuss damages cost. 

Lawyer Tuatagaloa Shane Wulf represented Father Muliau and others. 

Alex Su’a represented Julieanne Stowers while Leota Tima Leavai is the lawyer for the T.V.1 station. 

Justice Tafaoimalo added in the event the parties do not agree to an amount for the plaintiff’s compensation she will then make a decision on May 17, 2019. 

Earlier on during submissions, Mr. Su’a filed who is representing the first respondent Ms. Stowers filed final submissions. 

He told the Court there was no intention of malice from his client in the offending. 

“In this case we submit there was no malice and the conduct it was implemented on it was done solely on findings from the registrar,” he said. 

“The conduct of the first defendant was purely about challenging the record of registrar. It was never about the plaintiff, it was towards a written record from public official and by clarifying that it led to the plaintiff.” 

On the other hand, Leota who is representing the TV 1, said the company only published the notice but did not initiate it. 

“The company had no ownership of the publication and the other reason why there was no apology from the second respondent,” she said. 

“I also note in submission that the company did not breach the Code of Ethics. 

“There reason of broadcasting the notices is because they were shown a letter from the registrar of the Births, Marriage and Certificate…there was no evidence to show why it shouldn’t (publish the notice).”

Leota put a figure of $6,000 to $8,000 for the damages to be paid to the plaintiff. 

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