Andrew Little wins defamation battle against Hagaman estate

Lani Hagaman and her late husband sued Mr Little for $2.3 million.
Lani Hagaman and her late husband sued Mr Little for $2.3 million. Photo credit: Getty

The Court of Appeal has dismissed a defamation claim brought by the wife of the late millionaire hotelier Earl Hagaman against former Labour leader and current Justice Minister Andrew Little.

Lani Hagaman and her husband sued Mr Little for $2.3 million at a hearing in April this year and later filed an appeal shortly before Mr Hagaman's death in May.

It stemmed from comments Mr Little made in a press release and subsequent radio and television interviews in April last year about Mr Hagaman's $100,000 donation to the National Party.

The donation was made a month before his company, Scenic Hotel Group, was awarded a contract to operate Niue's Matavai luxury resort.

The High Court jury cleared Mr Little of defaming Ms Hagaman but was unable to reach a full decision in regard to Mr Hagaman.

The jury found on one of six causes of action that Mr Little had defamed Mr Hagaman but couldn't reach a majority decision on whether the defence of qualified privilege applied.

Ms Hagaman took that to the Court of Appeal, but on Thursday the court said the defamation claim had not survived Mr Hagaman's death and there was "no conclusive answer on that cause of action".

"Labour List MP Andrew Little has just received the decision on the appeal of the late Earl Raymond Hagaman v Andrew James Little," a spokesperson for Mr Little says.

"Mr Little is pleased the matter has been finalised. There will be no further comment."

Mr Hagaman's estate must pay costs for the appeal.

NZN / Newshub.