Andrew Little: 'I sleep like the innocent'

Andrew Little is relieved he hasn't had to fork out millions of dollars in a defamation suit.

A jury on Monday found the Labour leader did not defame Lani Hagaman, after a five-day trial in the High Court at Wellington.

Scenic Hotel owners  Earl and Lani Hagaman sued Mr Little for up to $2.3 million, arguing he implied they were involved in corrupt dealings when he questioned the timing of a $100,000 donation by Mr Hagaman to the National Party, and the awarding of a Government-led contract to his company, Scenic Hotel Group, a month later.

The jury did find Mr Little defamed Mr Hagaman on just one occasion. Mr Little says it's unclear whether there'll be a re-trial - but that's not his worry right now.

"Every night is a good night's sleep, I sleep like the innocent," he told The AM Show.

"My legal advice was there was there was a lot of inflated aspects to it and some we didn't expect would survive, and we saw the claims made by Lani Hagaman herself didn't go far very quickly.

"They wanted $2.3 million, I offered $100,000 about three weeks ago, after six days of a court hearing they've walked away with nothing.

"There's potentially more to come... but I've got a job to do now - I'm getting on and doing it."

Mr Little says he offered the money and apology because even though he stands by what he did, he knows the words he used hurt the Hagamans and he was prepared to make amends for that.

He says he wasn't slow in responding, as he'd waited for the auditor general's response to the claims.

"In terms of formal exchanges, they started at the end of last year," he said.

"They've had a good run at it... had a good go at me, it hasn't landed them up with anything, but they've got to make their judgment about what they think is going I've got a job to do, I'm getting on with it.

"There is an element of unpredictability in all this. They've got a right to have a retrial on some of the things the jury couldn't make findings about. There's also the question of potentially appeals.

"One of the rulings the judge made is that I did have qualified privilege - it was up to the jury to decide whether or not I'd done anything to disqualify me having access to that defence. That could go to the Court of Appeal."

There were four allegations of defamation in the case. On the fourth, the jury found the statement was defamatory but could not reach a majority decision on whether Mr Little's qualified privilege defence applied.

Both parties emerged from court on Monday seemingly happy with the outcome.

"We came here today with the full intention of restoring Earl's good reputation, our family name and Scenic Hotel Group's good standing in the hospitality and tourism sector. We have achieved that," Mrs Hagaman said.

"We can take at least this from the jury's verdict - there was a finding of an item which was defamatory of Earl."

She had hoped to restore his reputation before his death, which doctors have told the family could be just weeks away.

But Mrs Hagaman also said she would consider pursuing further action against Mr Little on the four outstanding matters.

"I'm sure you'll hear from me," she said.

The trial was told Mr Hagaman is seriously ill and nearing the end of his life.

NZN / Newshub.

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