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Disability pensioner suffers another loss in $357,000 case with Brisbane company

A Western Australia disability pensioner has lost another legal challenge against a Brisbane camper-trailer company in a near-$400,000 injurious falsehood case stemming from negative reviews.

Tracy Leigh, an administrator of the 51,000-member group Lemon Caravans & RVs in Aus, was found to have inflicted $357,000 worth of damage on Bruder Expedition Pty Ltd last year. The image used on the "Lemon Caravans & RVs in Aus" Facebook group. Ms Leigh, a disability pensioner with few assets, has previously asked supporters for help to cover her court costs.

During the past month, she made a separate application to the District Court of Queensland to stop, or at least delay, the continuation of an enforcement hearing for the money owed.

The case stems from a dispute between Bruder and dissatisfied customer Charles Coles, who bought a Bruder EXP-6 trailer in early 2018.

In April or May last year, Mr Coles wrote on a self-created website and urged potential Bruder customers to reconsider purchasing the high-end manufacturer's trailers.

Mr Coles removed the website on May 15 last year but not before a Lemon Caravans & RVs in Aus member shared the link to the Facebook group and Ms Leigh commented on the post.

Ms Leigh went on to name five companies, including Bruder, which she said had launched, or threatened to launch, legal action against customers who had written negative reviews.

On July 2, Bruder demanded Ms Leigh to remove the posts. She did not and legal action ensued. The Brisbane District Court granted a temporary injunction on July 10, 2019, preventing Ms Leigh from posting about Bruder or its products until the trial. On November 1, 2019, a jury found Ms Leigh had published injurious falsehoods, thereby causing Bruder actual loss amounting to $357,000. An EXP-6 camper-trailer. This product was at the centre of the dispute between Mr Coles and the manufacturer - Bruder. Judge Suzanne Sheridan issued a permanent injunction to restrain further publications from Ms Leigh of the same, or substantially the same, effect.

On November 3, 2019, two new posts appeared on the Lemon Caravans & RVs in Aus Facebook group under the name of Tracy Leigh. As a result, Ms Leigh was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid community service and pay Bruder's costs in the contempt of court case.

In the latest legal development, Ms Leigh alleged during hearings last month that the District Court of Queensland did not have jurisdiction to "entertain an enforcement hearing where the debtor [Ms Leigh] is a resident of another state."

"The [financial] information sought [by Bruder] is irrelevant and amounts to a fishing expedition," she claimed.

"The respondent [Bruder] should have sworn a new affidavit at the time of seeking the relisting of the enforcement hearing application to reflect the fact the applicant had now provided a Statement of Financial Position, which the respondent considered inadequate.

"This is contrasted with the previous affidavit sworn for the initial listing of the application which stated no Statement of Financial Position had been received." District Court Judge Orazio Rinaudo said the registrar was in the best position to make orders in respect of what financial information was to be provided by the applicant.

"Her order was very specific. I do not consider there any merit in the applicant’s argument in respect of this issue," he said.

"The applicant clearly understands financial records must be provided dating back three years in accordance with the registrar’s order.

"The applicant swears to live in Western Australia, which makes it impracticable to hold the hearing in a district in which the person to whom the enforcement hearing summons is directed resides or carries on business."

Judge Rinaudo said rules provided the hearing be held where the money order was made, which was in the Queensland District Court at Brisbane. "While no further supporting affidavit outlining such fact [that a Statement of Financial Position had been supplied by Ms Leigh as requested], the registrar was informed of the received SOFP and why the respondent was not satisfied," he said.

"This coupled with the fact the applicant failed to attend the hearing and raise any issues of irregularity ... I find the proceedings were properly constituted."

Judge Rinaudo ruled on Friday, August 7, that Ms Leigh's application should be dismissed and she should pay the costs of the respondent - Bruder Expedition Pty Ltd.

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