$280,000 defamation lawsuit settled without costs

Second defendant Lagi Keresoma and plaintiff Matafeo after the court settlement this morning

By Lagi Keresoma

APIA: TUESDAY 20 NOVEMBER 2012: The $280,000 defamation lawsuit brought by former EPC Utilisation Manager, Matafeo Lesaisaea Mataefo against Talamua Media & Publications, has been settled out of court with no costs to each of the parties.

The parties settled on a signed 6 paragraph agreement they hammered out last evening and also sanctioned by their respective counsels.

The case was adjourned from October to allow the parties to work out a settlement after the Plaintiff’s counsel requested the matter be discontinued.

The Chief Justice then ruled that the case cannot be discontinued until after an agreement was reached. He left the case opened “in the remote possibility that an agreement is not reached”, His Honour ruled.

No costs
The agreement says:
“The Parties to the case, namely Matafeo Lesaisaea Reupena Matafeo – Plaintiff and Talamua Media – First Respondent and Lagi Keresoma – Second Respondent, have agreed:

1. To discontinue proceedings of the case as brought by Matafeo against the Respondents upon application by Matafeo’s counsel
2. To settle forthwith without any costs on each of the parties

“Having come to this amicable settlement, the parties wish to commend the mediating efforts by His Honour the Chief Justice, Patu Tiava’asu’e Falefatu Sapolu that have resulted in the parties settling out of court.

“Talamua Media wishes to clarify that there no link between the two articles it published (namely, articles on 29 August and 10 November 2011) that had inadvertently been interpreted as being so and had been the centre of the case brought by the Plaintiff.

“The first article published on the 29th day of August 2011 headed “Top level EPC officials to face criminal charges – Auditors recommend”. No EPC officials were named.

“As the public is aware, Matafeo Lesaisaea R. Matafeo was never charged with any criminal activity relating to the controversies surrounding the EPC at these material times.”

Misleading TV Newsitem
When the case was adjourned from October, TVOne News broadcast a news item on the same night saying the Chief Justice had ordered the defendants to apologize.

The news item was discussed at length between the parties while seeking an agreement yesterday. The plaintiff and his wife who is the CEO of TVOne, pointed to the TV reporter whom they directed to talk to their counsel as basis of the information reported.

The defendants insisted that the matter be brought to the Chief Justice’s attention in Court given it was misleading and bordered on contempt and had drawn negative impact on the defendants from professionals and the public at large.

When raised in Court by the defendants counsel, His Honour stated that “I did not make such an order” referring to the news item.

His Honour thanked the parties for “their good sense” in coming to the out of court settlement.

The out of court settlement was initiated by His Honour after the first day of hearing and the application by the plaintiff’s counsel to adjourn to the next day as they secure character witnesses for the plaintiff. This was after the plaintiff had been cross examined by the defendants counsel over a damaging report that questioned his reputation and character that led to his termination as CEO of the Samoa Tourism Authority in 2008.

When the case reconvened the next morning, His Honour called the counsels to his Chambers after which the suggestion for an out of court settlement was mooted and the parties agreed to try and come to an agreement. This was done yesterday evening ahead of this mornings hearing.

The case has been struck out. The defendants did not take the stand.