Defamation shocker: What they said and what it cost them
IT ENDED in tears, literally and figuratively.
The extraordinary Tamborine State High School defamation case - a protracted and bitter battle that pitted principal against parent - finished yesterday in the emotion-charged way that it began.
"You're f …. d," Miguel Baluskas muttered in the direction of Tamborine High principal Tracey Brose as he stormed out of a packed Southport District Courtroom 13.
Judge Catherine Muir had not finished handing down her decision in the case of Brose v Baluskas and Others but a fuming Mr Baluskas had heard enough - that he and wife Donna had lost.
It was hardly a resounding victory for Mrs Brose, however.
Having originally sought more than $1.5 million from eight parents (and spent more than $600,000 fighting the case), she was awarded just $6000 in damages from two of them, Donna and Miguel Baluskas.
And her credibility - which she fought so hard to defend during the toxic three-and-a-half-year legal showdown - copped a judicial hammering.
"All of the parties who gave evidence before me failed to impress me as credible and reliable witnesses," Judge Muir said in her 140-page judgment.
With emotions running high throughout the case, a security guard was posted outside the courtroom in the event of trouble.
Outside the courthouse, there were tears, anger and relief.
Mrs Baluskas erupted in hysterics.
A woman claiming to be a fellow ex-Tamborine parent had approached her, saying her own son had committed suicide.
Mrs Baluskas, who gave evidence that her son had tried to take his own life after being expelled by Mrs Brose, broke down as she hugged the woman.
"All we did was stick up for our children," an emotional Mrs Baluskas told media.
"We've lost our house, we've lost our car, we've lost our caravan. She's sent us bankrupt.
"I'm sorry, she can send her (damages) bill, she can stick it up her arse'.
A teary Mrs Brose, hand-in-hand with husband and fellow Tamborine High teacher Peter Brose, said: "It was never about money and it was never going to end in money."
"Whether it's $3000 or $300,000, the important part is that someone has said you can't do this to people,' she said.
But as Judge Muir observed, 'the fiscal and emotional toll on all those involved has been high'.
"It has involved many hours, many witnesses and caused much antagonism and distress for all parties," she said.
Tracey Brose may have won, but at what cost?
What they said
Donna Baluskas, nurse, Nerang
What she said: "About time something is done about this evil, nasty, horrible women (SIC). She makes my blood boil and bought (SIC) so much pain and stress upon our family and many others. All because our kids aren't "A" students which will effect her overall school ratings". (on the Change.org website on 7 March 2016)
The judgment: The judge found there was publication of this post and that at least 200 people read and understood it. The imputation found was that Mrs Brose brings pain and stress on children who do not get "A"s and she mistreats lower performing children because those children affect her school ratings.
What it cost: Mrs Baluskas bankrupt and now renting. She spent estimated $300,000 on her legal defence, but ran out of money before trial.
Miguel Baluskas, labourer, Nerang
What he said: "What a joke! I can't believe that it has taken the education department this long to react to the numerous complaints of parents that have confronted her on the way she would handle situations regarding there child. She thinks she is an investigator, judge, jury and executioner and not a good one at that. She's not interested in the kids that don't fit the norm of education only high achievers The only skill she has learnt in the past 16 years is the gift of the gab. Good riddens" [sic] (on the Change.org website on 7 March 2016)
The judgment: The judge found there was publication of this post and that at least 200 people read and understood it. Defamatory imputations found by judge included Mrs Brose is unjust and not interested in children that are not high achievers.'
What it cost: Mr Baluskas is bankrupt, owned own home, now renting. spent estimated $300,000 on legal defence but ran out of money before trial.
Laura Lawson, grocery merchandiser, Coomera
What she said: Posted online that Mrs Brose "made their lives a nightmare". "I could fill pages with the mistreatments of my children," she wrote, according to court documents. "Some parents have been trying to get rid of her for years, and I am very glad it has finally happened."
"When my sons were at TMSHS she made their lives a nightmare! When they decided to play with their hair colour, I was called the next day to take one son home as his hair colour was against the rules. When I asked what my son's hair colour has to do with him getting an education, all I got was "it's against the rules". Not really an answer. When Tracey called me back later (sight unseen), I was told that people with bold hair colour generally don't get jobs."
The judgment: The judge dismissed the case against Ms Lawson, saying she is not liable to Mrs Brose for defamation damages
What it cost: Ms Lawson told the court: "I have nothing to give the plaintiff. My car is 18 years old. I have no assets to sell."
Trudie Arnold, lollipop lady, Canungra
What she said: Mrs Brose was a "lying manipulative bully, who gets off by belittling as many people as she can". "She is responsible for every failure , she is pathetic … NOT an educator,'' ( posted on Facebook on or about 12 March 2016).
The judgment: Ms Arnold filed a defence but elected not to participate at trial. Judge Muir dismissed the defamation case against Ms Arnold.
What it cost: She is bankrupt
Tracey Brose, principal of Tamborine Mountain State High School
The judgment: The judge made damning observations about Mrs Brose's credit, including that the judge found Mrs Brose "an unreliable historian" on certain topics. Judge Muir found she had "some hesitation" in accepting Mrs Brose's evidence unless it was corroborated by objective evidence. Judge Muir found Mrs Brose's "recollection was often distorted and selective and on occasion revealed a complete lack of insight, perspective and measure".
What it cost: She spent $600,000 on the defamation case "to reinstate my reputation", had remortgaged her house and borrowed money from her father and brother to fight the case.
What she won: $6000 in damages yesterday and hundreds of thousands in settled claims previously.