Court awards $60,000 in damages to blogger in defamation suit

Blogger Vaune Phan (centre), flanked by her lawyers Cherisse Foo and Suresh Divyanathan, on Tuesday. After a trial, the court found that the social media personality had been defamed by Mr Mark Yeow last year.
Blogger Vaune Phan (centre), flanked by her lawyers Cherisse Foo and Suresh Divyanathan, on Tuesday. After a trial, the court found that the social media personality had been defamed by Mr Mark Yeow last year.PHOTO: VAUNE PHAN

A blogger, who has been featured riding her motorcycle overseas various times by the media, was awarded $60,000 in damages after winning a defamation suit in the State Courts on Tuesday.

After a trial, the court found that social media personality Vaune Phan had been defamed by Mr Mark Yeow last year.

He had posted three defamatory statements on Facebook and had sent a separate one to a WhatsApp chat group, court documents state.

Ms Phan was represented by lawyers Suresh Divyanathan and Cherisse Foo from Oon & Bazul LLP.

Mr Yeow, the chief mechanic at a motorcycle workshop and the operations director at another, was represented by lawyers Luo Ling Ling and Sharifah Nabilah from Luo Ling Ling LLC.

Among other things, he had insinuated that Ms Phan had lied during proceedings in the Small Claims Tribunal (SCT) over her dispute with a motorcycle workshop, Revology Bikes.

The blogger had claimed that Revology damaged her motorcycle when it reinstalled a camera that it had previously fixed on the vehicle.

In her SCT claim filed on Dec 21, 2018, she said there was a "sizeable gap" between the fairings and the body of the motorcycle after it was returned to her.

On Dec 30 that year, Ms Phan published a Facebook post on the incident with Revology.

Mr Yeow published a series of comments on her post in January last year, calling her a "cheapskate", among other things, and also accusing her of cyber bullying.

In a Facebook post the next month, he questioned her integrity and her SCT claim, tagging her past, present and potential sponsors, business partners and other motorcycle workshops in his post.

Mr Yeow subsequently included a link to the post in a message to a WhatsApp chat group, in which he also used the words "cheating" and "karma", in March that year.

In the same month, the SCT ordered Revology to pay the blogger $4,630 as compensation.

In May last year, Mr Yeow commented on Ms Phan again on a Facebook post by electronics company Samsung.

The post was an advertisement for a new mobile phone and featured the blogger, who had been contracted to promote it.


The State Courts found that social media personality Vaune Phan had been defamed on four occasions last year. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Addressing Samsung with another Facebook account, he said the company "should do some homework and fact-finding before hiring an influencer" and there were plenty of capable individuals "who can show you what dirt biking means".

The advertisement was later removed, and Ms Phan's contract to promote the mobile phone was terminated.

On Tuesday, District Judge Wong Peck said in her judgment that Mr Yeow's remarks were not justified.

Among other things, she disagreed with his explanation that Ms Phan's behaviour had caused loss to Revology's business and was therefore "cyber bullying".

Noting Mr Yeow's attempts to prove that the blogger had lied during the SCT proceedings, she said: "My view is that it is not open to this court to examine the SCT decision and findings of fact."

She also ordered Mr Yeow to pay legal costs to Ms Phan, take down his Facebook statements and refrain from making similar defamatory remarks against her again.

But the judge did not allow Ms Phan's claim for damages for the termination of her contract to promote the mobile phone, ruling that she had not proven it was due to Mr Yeow's remarks.

Mr Yeow told The Straits Times that he intends to appeal against the decision.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2020, with the headline 'Court awards $60,000 in damages to blogger in defamation suit'. Print Edition | Subscribe