The brother of a man who fled from a Sydney car crash, leaving his severely injured girlfriend, has failed in securing more than a $7500 payout from a media outlet that published his name following a police report.
Hussein Wraydeh sued Fairfax Media Publications and Nationwide News over a series of articles following the head-on car crash at Punchbowl in August 2016.
But a District Court judge ultimately found he had not suffered the personal hurt and distress from the reports as he claimed, and all articles bar one from Fairfax were covered by qualified privilege, resulting in $7500 damages.
Mr Wraydeh appealed against her findings and argued that amount in damages was manifestly inadequate.
On Wednesday the case was dismissed by three NSW Supreme Court judges who agreed with the serious adverse findings made against him.
Following the crash, reports surfaced of a "manhunt underway," according to NSW Supreme Court documents.
The driver was seen in CCTV footage checking on his injured passenger, leaning into the driver's side, grabbing some belongings and calmly walking away from the scene,
Mr Wraydeh had been nearby the crash and was already there attempting to speak with his brother's girlfriend Georgina Abdallah by the time detectives arrived.
After some reluctance he gave police the name "Gina," and his details, saying he had known her for about four weeks "from the area".
Ms Abdallah later died in hospital while her boyfriend Hassan Wraydeh - who was driving the car on stolen number plates - was being sought by police.
Police media sent out a number of press releases about the incident including one that stated "Hussain Wraydeh may have information vital to clarify the circumstances leading up to the crash," with one image circulated online being that of Hussein Wraydeh.
While police stated they wanted information from this wrongly named man, journalists checked with sources and verified he was the suspect of driving and abandoning the scene, and subsequently named "Hussain" as the culprit.
Hussein Wraydeh resolved proceedings with Dailymail.com for $100,000 and the State of NSW for $70,000, and sought damages from the remaining two news organisations pleading imputations that he was made out to be a cruel and callous person, subject of a police manhunt and a criminal, among others.
But Judge Penelope Wass rejected Mr Wraydeh's evidence in a number of areas.
She described his claim of hurt feelings as a "gross overstatement," observing he had made no attempt to correct the publications by informing either the media or the police that he was not the driver.
"Overall, I did not regard the plaintiff to be an honest and accurate witness. He tended to feign a lack of recollection when it suited him, to fill gaps in his recollection, to exaggerate things that he thought would assist his case, and to underplay those things that he thought would be detrimental to his interests," Judge Wass said.
The judge upheld the defence of qualified privilege, saying it was clearly in the public interest for the police to communicate with the community via mass media to obtain information regarding ongoing investigations.
Australian Associated Press