Luxury car dealer Srecko Lorbek loses defamation battle over reviews

A Melbourne car dealer who took a disgruntled client to court for leaving scathing Google reviews was defamed in the posts, but still lost the bitter court battle.

Luxury car dealer Srecko Lorbek has lost a marathon defamation battle against a disgruntled customer who penned a series of poison reviews in which he claimed he was sold a “dud” Porsche.

Lorbek and his salesman brother, David, had accused Peter King of launching a smear campaign against their good name and business, Lorbek Luxury Cars, by using Google reviews and online forums to spin falsehoods and scare off potential customers.

Mr King claimed in four publications the Lorbeks had knowingly sold him an unroadworthy car and had “lied to his face” about the vehicle’s condition.

But in a Supreme Court judgment handed down on Thursday morning, Justice Michael McDonald ruled Mr King had a reasonable defence to do so.

Justice McDonald ruled that while the online posts – which implied the Lorbeks were dishonest, untrustworthy and deserved no respect as business owners – were defamatory, Mr King had successfully established the defence of statutory qualified privilege.

Peter King and the 2011 Porsche Panamera Turbo he purchased from Lorbek Luxury Cars.
Peter King and the 2011 Porsche Panamera Turbo he purchased from Lorbek Luxury Cars.

“As a result of the investigations which he undertook in the second half of 2016, (Mr King) had a genuine and reasonably held belief that the (Lorbeks) knew that the vehicle he purchased … was unroadworthy,” Justice McDonald ruled.

“ (Mr King’s) conduct in publishing the four publications was reasonable in the circumstances,” he said.

Justice McDonald said while the “mutual disregard” between the parties was “palpable” during the 12 day trial, the Lorbeks had not established Mr King had acted with malice.

Mr King began writing the reviews after purchasing the 2011 Porsche Panamera Turbo from the dealership for about $150,000.


It was later discovered the third party mechanic engaged by the Lorbeks who issued the car its road worthy certificate had used a faulty instrument to measure the Porsche’s brake rotors.

VicRoads launched an investigation once the fault was discovered and went on to ban the mechanic business from issuing road worthy certificates for four weeks in early 2017.

After learning of this, Mr King wrote in an April 2017 review: “If you’re thinking of dealing with Lorbek turn and run away”.

The Lorbeks claimed they had “no choice” but to take legal action against Mr King, likening the reviews to “digital graffiti”.

The brothers were seeking $250,000 in damages for distress and harm caused to their business and personal reputation.

Srecko Lorbek (right) has lost the running court battle. Picture: Josie Hayden
Srecko Lorbek (right) has lost the running court battle. Picture: Josie Hayden

Justice McDonald said had Mr King not established the qualified privilege defence, he would have awarded Srecko Lorbek $75,000 and David $25,000.

In his 93 page judgment, Justice McDonald noted parts of Mr King’s evidence was not credible.

Barrister James Catlin, for the Lorbeks alleged that Mr King was not the unemployed, almost bankrupt, dad he claimed to be – rather “a pimp” and director of a company which registered the business names Six Star Models – which appeared to be an escort agency run out of Sydney.

Mr King vehemently denied having any knowledge of how he and his wife’s company came to register a business in the sex industry, suggesting someone may have set it up fraudulently – a claim Justice McDonald rejected.

But, his honour ruled, this does not mean where this is conflict between the evidence of Mr King and the Lorbeks, the Lorbeks should always be preferred.

Justice McDonald also ordered the Lorbeks pay Mr King’s legal fees.



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