Tue | Aug 11, 2020

Jamaica Observer to pay millions more to Matalon

Published:Thursday | November 21, 2019 | 12:29 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

The Jamaica Observer Limited will have to fork out almost $6 million more to business mogul Joseph M. Matalon after the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the newspaper to overturn a Supreme Court decision that found it liable for defamation.

In a 2014 ruling, the Supreme Court found that a 2008 article titled ‘The trouble with toxic bonds: how Mechala bond holders lost out’, published in the Caribbean Business Report, a pull-out business magazine published by the newspaper company, was defamatory.

The Mechala Group Jamaica Limited is the holding company beneficially owned by Matalon and other members of his family.

Matalon is also chairman of the RJRGLEANER Communications Group.

Justice Bryan Sykes, who heard the matter, awarded Matalon damages in the sum of $4.3 million.

The Jamaica Observer filed an appeal on 25 grounds urging the Court of Appeal to overturn the Supreme Court ruling.

It contended that the judge erred in attributing meaning to the words used in the article and also in rejecting the defences of fair comment and qualified privilege.

However, in a cross-appeal, Matalon contended that the judge’s award failed to take into account the grave effect of the libel and that it erred in not including the award for aggravated and/or exemplary damages in the amount awarded to him for damages.

In a 104-page judgment on Monday, the Court of Appeal concluded, “JOL’s (Jamaica Observer’s) appeal on liability should be dismissed because the judge was correct to conclude that the defences of fair comment and qualified privilege could not succeed in the circumstances of this case.”

It added that the judge was also correct to reject the Jamaica Observer’s contention that in any event, Matalon should be awarded purely nominal damages or some lesser sum than the $4.3 million that was awarded.

The court also allowed Matalon cross-appeal, awarding him $10.2 million because in arriving at his conclusion on damages, the judge failed to take into account the claim for aggravated damages.

The judgment was handed down by Justices Dennis Morrison, Hilary Phillips, and Paulette Williams.