Too Little, too late for desperate Labour leader

Andrew Little tried a settlement at the last moment in his defamation case.

It was rejected, and rightly so as it wouldn’t even have covered the legal bills of the Hagamans.

Labour leader Andrew Little upped his offer from $26,000 to $100,000 in a last-minute bid to settle the defamation claim against him by hoteliers Earl and Lani Hagaman but Mrs Hagaman rejected it as too little and too late.

Little’s offer was revealed in Mrs Hagaman’s evidence at the High Court in Wellington, during which she read out letters between lawyers for the two. ?

The Hagamans are now seeking more than $2 million in damages from Little over comments he made last year about a $100,000 donation from the Hagamans to the National Party in 2014 and a contract later awarded to their hotel chain – Scenic Hotel – to manage the Matavai resort in Niue.

At the time, the Hagamans gave Little a deadline to apologise and retract his comments, but he refused. Mrs Hagaman said at that point, all the Hagamans wanted was an apology and “minimal” costs: “just a couple of legal letters.”

Mrs Hagaman said in February this year, Little offered the wording of an apology and $26,000.

In response the Hagamans said although they “have no wish to destroy Mr Little by rendering him insolvent,” a more realistic offer was needed.

Ironically, that is likely?what will happen now, as people like Hagamans do actually have a reputation and it is worth something. Andrew Little played fast and loose with this and he is now getting a salutary lesson. The damages if he loses will far exceed his offer as well as the costs award, let alone his own lawyer’s costs.

His return offer of $100,000 was also rejected – Mrs Hagaman said her costs by then were already $215,000 and the wording of the apology was inadequate because it did not state there was no link between the donation and the hotel’s business interest in Niue.

Mrs Hagaman said Little’s comments had associated them with an apparent scandal which had damaged the Hagamans’ reputation and that of their hotels.

Andrew Little is stuffed whether he wins or loses, especially as we now know that Earl Hagaman is on death’s door.

Little’s reputation will be in tatters at the end of this week, all for want of a properly worded apology.


– NZ Herald