The Vibe

Posted on Feb 29, 2016 | 0 comments


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Family Law disputes often bring out the worst in people and solicitors should be wary about acting for family member combatants. So, when Brett Smith decided to act for his daughter in law against her first husband, he should have anticipated that emotions might run high. However, he probably didn’t anticipate that he would end up suing his “son in law” in the QLD District Court for defamation.

So what was the heinous attack on his reputation that led to these proceedings? Apparently Mr Lucht took to referring to Mr Smith in writing and in conversation as “Dennis Denuto”. The task for the court (Smith v Lucht [2015] QDC 289) was to determine whether this was capable of being defamatory or conveying any defamatory imputation by considering (at [22]), the natural and ordinary meaning of the words ‘Dennis Denuto’:

The plaintiff contends the words used convey a defamatory meaning because the natural and ordinary meaning of the words ‘Dennis Denuto’ is a lawyer who was:

“(a) Unprofessional in the exercise of his said profession;

(b) Inexperienced in the exercise of his said profession;

(c) Unethical in the exercise of his said profession;

(d) Without, or without many or sufficient, clients in the exercise of his profession;

(e) Unable or incapable of discharging, properly, his role as a solicitor;

(f) Unable or incapable of discharging, properly, his role as a solicitor in large or complex litigation;

(g) Incompetent, including in the exercise of his said profession;

(h) Foolish, including in the exercise of his said profession; and

(i) The proper subject of ridicule, humour and/or mirth, including in the exercise of his said profession.”

Although the defamation claim largely failed, Mr Smith was awarded $10,000 for reparation, consolation and vindication. A true life application of the vibe?

Creative commons acknowledgement for the photograph.

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