Channel Nine has been ordered to pay a Toowoomba family more than $2 million in damages over a defamatory 60 Minutes report.
The family claimed a 2015 story on the 2011 Grantham floods insinuated the family was responsible for the deaths of 12 people, including 2 children, during the ‘inland tsunami’ that devastated the town.
In May a jury found the program had defamed Denis, John, Neill & Joe Wagner.
ABC reports Justice Peter Applegarth wrote in his 86-page ruling that Channel Nine was “recklessly indifferent as to the truth or falsity of those imputations”.
He said the network had failed to put to the Wagners the serious allegations contained in its report. A statement sent by the Wagners to Nine was not used, described by Justice Applegarth as “unreasonable, unfair and unjustifiable in the circumstances”.
An apology made in the court to the Wagners was also “too little, too late.”
Nine will pay the four brothers $600,000 each in damages plus $63,000 in interest. Journalist Nick Cater, who was featured in the program, has also been ordered to pay $1.2 million in damages.
“As a family committed to Queensland and the Toowoomba region, we will move forward knowing that when the media do not report in a fair and honest way, they can be held accountable,” he said.
“Unfortunately, what will never change is the devastating impact of the Grantham Floods and we offer our most sincere thoughts to all those that were impacted and affected.”
The Wagners won a similar case against broadcaster Alan Jones last year.
Jones and radio stations 2GB and 4BC, which have also since fallen under Nine ownership, were ordered to pay the family $3.75 million.
Nine said it would review the judgment and consider its position.