Matt and Annette Palmer of Sidney, Australia have learned that what you say online can be costly. The couple lives on an island community of about 1,000 people and, last year, a flyer was posted with some disparaging statements about neighbor, Nader Mohareb. In addtion to complaining about Mr. Mohareb’s poor control of his pets, the poster also claimed that he was “a highly volatile individual, prone to manic outbursts… often abusive and threatening, particularly towards women and children” and that he was “known to police.”
The Palmers say that they didn’t post the physical flyers but Matt Palmer did post a copy of the flyer to the community’s Facebook page, along with a caption that read that Mr. Mohareb “may or may not be related to Satan.
The post was removed by a moderator but, the Palmers continued to comment about it on the Facebook page.
In response, Nader Mohareb sued the couple for defamation. Over the next several months, they were in and out of court seven times. The Palmers said that they had to borrow money to cover their legal fees.
After it became apparent that case was going to be heading for a jury trial, settlement talks ensued. Mr. Mohareb agreed to drop the charges and even pay some of the couple’s legal fees, in exchange for a public apology on the community’s Facebook page.
This should have been the end but, it seems like the Palmers couldn’t keep up their end of the deal. It took four attempts for them to get this right, including one attempt that indicated that they were apologizing only because of a court order and another in which they spelled Mr. Mohareb’s name incorrectly.
Because they hadn’t done their due diligence to correctly post their apology, they judge voided their petition to get their legal costs defrayed, leaving them on the hook for the full $15,000.
In response, the couple appears to have completely taken down their apology.