Australian lawyer wins damages

One of Australia's leading intellectual property lawyers has won record damages in a defamation case against a French law firm which accused him of seducing one of its associates.

Stephen Stern, who moved from top Australian firm Freehill Hollingdale & Page to rival Corrs Chambers Westgarth in the middle of the case (The Lawyer, 6 December 1999), has been awarded $780,000 (£298,000).

He brought the action against two partners at French firm Coutrelis & Associes after they wrote to his then managing partner claiming he had had “a very close personal relationship” with one of their solicitors at a 1997 wine law conference in Brussels.

Stern now plans to register the judgment in France to collect his damages. He says: “The letter cast horrific aspersions on my credibility, professionalism and ethics. This judgment has gone a long way to vindicating my reputation.”

French partner Andre Coutrelis is indifferent to the judgment, saying: “We don't recognise the Australian jurisdiction.”