Sandra Hill ordered to pay $105K for defamation

Sandra Hill
Sandra Hill

The Grand Court has ordered Cayman Marl Road administrator Sandra Hill to pay $105,000 in damages to businessman John Felder for defamation.

The default judgment was handed down by Justice Marlene Carter earlier today, 14 Sept., in chambers, which prevented the media from attending.

The Cayman Compass reached out to Hill, who stated that the settlement amount was $105,000.

The Compass has not been able to independently confirm that figure. However, Carter’s personal assistant said, “the judgment would be made public in due course”.

Felder’s defamation lawsuit against Hill stems from a series of posts in 2019, which were published on Hill’s Cayman Marl Road website and its supporting social media platforms.

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On 27 Dec. 2019, Felder filed the lawsuit, which was followed up by a statement of claims on 29 Jan. 2020.

In the statement of claims, Felder alleged, “…several defamatory articles were published by the Defendant about the plaintiff and attacking his character and his business practices. By way of example, he was described as an “alleged fraudster” and a “first-rate con artist”. Reference was also made to email correspondence claiming Mr. Felder was, in fact a “con artist”.

As part of the of the original defamation lawsuit, Felder requested that a default judgment be returned in his favour, if Hill was unable to provide a defence for the allegations.

Section 171 of the Cayman Islands Penal Code (2017 Revision) states, “A person who by print, writing, painting, effigy, tape, film, disc or other recording or by any means other than by gestures or spoken words or other sounds unlawfully publishes or facilitates the publication of any defamatory matter concerning another person with intent to defame that other person commits libel.”

According to section 174(a) of the Penal Code, the publication of defamatory material is unlawful by the meaning of section 171, unless “the matter is true and it was for the benefit of the public that it should be published”.

Background to the case

Court documents state that Hill acknowledged receiving the summons on 14 Jan. 2020, but did not file a defence with the court.

In July, Justice Robin McMillan, who was previously considering the matter, entered a default judgment condemning three articles on Cayman Marl Road as being defamatory. Having ruled the articles were defamatory, McMillan ordered that another hearing be set to assess the costs and damages.

In August, before the costs ruling was released, Hill applied to the court to have the default judgment set aside and for no costs to be awarded.

When denying Hill’s application, Justice Carter stated, “There is no respect in which the default judgment could be described as irregularly obtained.”

Carter added that, when representing herself, Hill gave “inconsistent and tenuous defenses”, which included that she should not be held liable for posts because the publication was the responsibility of Cayman Marl Road which was, at the time, a Cayman-based limited liability company.

However, this was later contradicted by Hill who went on to state that, at the time of the defamatory posts, CMR was registered in Delaware, US, and only became incorporated in Cayman on 2 Feb. 2021.

Hill told the Compass in a text message that the verdict was “disappointing given that we have documentary evidence that what was said was actually 100% accurate. Honestly, this is a prime example of why you want to hire lawyers instead of trying to litigate a situation yourself.”

She added, “2019, I was dealing with 3 cases… and never took this one seriously enough to get the professional assistance that clearly it needed.”

Hill stated she plans to appeal the judgment.

The Compass reached out to Felder and his attorney seeking a comment on the ruling; no reply had been received by press time.

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