A Melbourne man who successfully sued Google for defaming him
by linking him to underworld figures has been awarded
$200,000 in damages from the US search engine.
Michael Trkulja was shot in the back as he dined in a St
Albans restaurant in 2004.
He sued Google upon finding that a search of his name would
bring up his image on the same page as convicted drug boss
An article about his shooting was published under the heading
A Victorian Supreme Court jury found the publications implied
Mr Trkulja was so involved with crime in Melbourne that his
rivals had hired a hitman to murder him.
Justice David Beach on Monday ordered Google to pay Mr
Trkulja $200,000 in damages for continuing to publish the
defamatory material between October and December 2009,
despite having received a letter from Mr Trkulja's lawyers in
September asking for its removal.
The trial heard Mr Trkulja had been a show business manager
for 40 years, had a top rating television show in the 1990s
and was a highly respected member of the Serbian community in
The publications by Google had caused him devastation, hurt
and stress, the court heard.
Google denied that the meanings alleged by Mr Trkulja were
conveyed and pleaded innocent dissemination, arguing its
publication system was fully automated.
Justice Beach said the jury was entitled to find that Google
intended to publish the material produced by its automated
systems because that was what Google employees had designed
the systems to do.
"In that sense, Google Inc is like the newsagent that sells a
newspaper containing a defamatory article," he said.
"While there might be no specific intention to publish
defamatory material, there is a relevant intention by the
newsagent to publish the newspaper for the purposes of the
law of defamation."
Mr Trkulja was earlier this year awarded $225,000 in damages
from the Yahoo!7 search engine over its publication of the
A Google spokesman said the results displayed by the search
engine were a reflection of the content and information
available on the internet.
"The sites in Google's search results are controlled by those
sites' webmasters, not by Google," he said.