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Missing Apostrophe in Rant May Prove Costly

Defamation case hinges on punctuation
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2021 2:25 PM CDT
Missing Apostrophe in Rant May Prove Costly
   (Getty/boti 1985)

(Newser) – It's not unusual to come across an online rant with bad punctuation. But in this case, it might cost the author a hefty penalty. As a story in the Guardian explains, an Australian real estate agent unloaded on his boss in a Facebook post, accusing his superior of failing to pay into a retirement account.

  • What he wrote: “Oh Stuart Gan!! Selling multi million $ homes in Pearl Beach but can’t pay his employees superannuation," wrote Anthony Zadravic. "Shame on you Stuart!!! 2 yrs and still waiting!!!”
  • The issue: Because Zadravic didn't stick an apostrophe before the s in employees, his post suggests that this alleged problem affects not only him but other employees as well. Court documents indicate Zadravic meant to add the apostrophe, per the New York Times.

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  • The judge: Zadravic asked a court to dismiss the case on the grounds that it was too trivial. The judge, however, disagreed. "The difficulty for the plaintiff is the use of the word ‘employees’ in the plural," wrote Judith Gibson. "To fail to pay one employee’s superannuation entitlement might be seen as unfortunate; to fail to pay some or all of them looks deliberate."
  • Fallout: Generally speaking, Australia has a strict law against defamation, and this post could prove costly to Zadravic, perhaps north of $100,000 should he lose at trial.
(In the US, a lawsuit once hinged on the Oxford comma.)

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