Channel 7 will drop its truth defence ahead of a defamation trial with Sydney socialite Nisserine ‘Nissy’ Nassif, who is suing the broadcaster over a report she claims called the integrity of her charity into question.
Mrs Nassif, wife of developer Jean Nassif, is seeking aggravated damages over the report from February 2019 that alleged her not-for-profit Wiping Tears Charitable Foundation passed on just $5000 of the $210,000 it raised in 2016/17.
Wiping Tears aims to provide “immediate financial assistance to families who are experiencing disadvantage due to illnesses or social injustice”, according to its website.
The Federal Court heard on Friday the broadcaster was amending its defence to drop the justification of truth, but will head to a three-day hearing in April arguing its report displayed “contextual truth” and an “honest opinion”.
In documents tendered to the court Mrs Nassif alleged she and her charity were “gravely injured in their character and reputation” by the report, and that she had personally suffered “substantial hurt, distress and embarrassment”.
She also claims the Seven Network made no reasonable attempt to seek comment from her before publishing the story.
Her barrister Sue Chrysanthou told the court on Friday the parties had failed in an attempted mediation held since the last court date in March.
The defence had argued that according to a 2017 statement to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Wiping Tears had more than $210,000 in assets, collected $45,000 in revenue, and spent just over $5000.
“The disparity between the representations and the reported activity in the 2016-17 financial year renders the representations substantially false,” it claimed in court documents filed in 2019.
Mrs Nassif, known for flaunting a glamorous lifestyle online, rose to social media fame last year when a viral video of her husband gifting her a bright yellow Lamborghini emerged.
Toplace director Mr Nassif’s cry of “Congratulations Mrs Nassif! You like?” spawned a popular meme.
Model and actor Mrs Nassif wants Seven barred from publishing future reports carrying the same allegedly defamatory imputations and its original story deleted from social media.
Justice Wendy Abraham set down three days of hearings for the trial set to begin on April 14, 2021.