Samoa Observer to pay $72,300 damages

The Supreme Court has ordered the Samoa Observer newspaper to pay $72,300 compensation to a former church minister and his daughter after they filed a defamation lawsuit. 

Opapo Soanai Oeti and his daughter Toaipuapuaga Patrick sued the newspaper in March 2017 claiming that some of the statements in a Letter to the Editor published by the newspaper were defamatory.  

The newspaper later published a retraction and apology to the plaintiffs, days after the publication. 

In her written decision on Friday, Acting Chief Justice, Her Honour Niava Mata Tuatagaloa ordered the newspaper to pay $72,300 compensation for damages to the plaintiffs. 

She ordered the newspaper to pay $16,800 to the former church minister, $52,500 to his daughter Ms. Patrick and $3000 toward the plaintiffs costs.  

Justice Tuatagaloa gave a 50 per cent discount for mitigating factors on damages. 

The Samoa Observer appealed the decision from Justice Tuatagaloa in 2019 that found five statements or words in the letter to the editor were defamatory. 

The Court of Appeal last year upheld three of the five statements to be defamatory. 

On the issue of damages, it was not assessed at the time until after the appeal. 

The plaintiffs had initially sought damages worth $700,000 for general damages, aggravated damages and punitive damages. 

Lawyers Travis Lamb and Su’a Hellene Wallwork of Wallwork Lamb Lawyers represented the Samoa Observer in the matter. 

Muriel Lui was the lawyer for the plaintiffs. 

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