Who ever says that the law is an ass......

2013-09-11 15:44

Who ever said that the law was an ass has either had a nasty experience in court or he[she] has not yet read a decision of the North Gauteng High Court on 4 September 2013 wherein a person, though not the author of defamatory statements published on the social media websites such as Facebook, was held jointly liable with the person, in fact the first defendant,who published those remarks,because he allowed his name to be "tagged" on Facebook. Read, no study the decision cited as Isparta v Richter and Another [2013] ZAGPPHC 243 which is easily accessible on the website http://www.saflii.org.za/za/cases/ZAGPPHC/2013/243.html.

The law and judgments are certainly keeping up with technology. So be very careful what you publish on social media websites such as facebook. As the second defendant, who had been previously married to the plaintiff, learnt a very expensive lesson. He has to fork out R40,000 and costs jointly and severally liable with the first defendant.

Although the second defendant was not the author of the defamatory remarks, he was held liable as he had allowed his name to be "tagged" on facebook. For what is worth, the plaintiff and second defendant were once involved in a very acrimonious matrimonial litigation. The first defendant had made defamatory remarks on facebook that referred to the plaintiff which was deeply injurious to her reputation.

The plaintiff and the second defendant were married to each other, but were divorced after acrimonious litigation. The plaintiff and the second defendant are still engaged in consequent litigation. The plaintiff obtained an order for the committal of the second defendant for contempt of court. She also obtained an interim interdict against him, with a return date in September 2013. The ongoing litigation concerns the second defendant’s alleged failure to comply with a settlement agreement entered into between the plaintiff and the second defendant in their divorce proceedings.

The plaintiff remarried and the first and second defendants married each other subsequent to the divorce. The plaintiffs husband has a son aged 16, who lives with her and her husband. She also has two children from her marriage with the second defendant. The remarks alluded to, inter alia, the Plaintiff as a parent.

Though the second defendant was not the author of the defamatory comments, he allowed himself to be "tagged" by the first defendant,his wife and in fact ridiculed her on facebook in the context of the posts by the first defendant as regards the plaintiff's alleged interest in her private life.

The judgment breaks new ground and sets a precedent unless it is overturned on appeal.

So the law is not an ass at the best of times. In fact its a viper. Beware.....

Attorney Saber Ahmed Jazbhay

follow me on twitter @jazlaw24

POSTSCRIPT

I opine that this is not the end of the matter and that there could be a different outcome on appeal.Readers bear in mind that at the end of the plaintiff's case, the defendant did not testify.

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