On January 29, woodchipping giant Gunns Limited has dropped its law suits against the last four defendants in the "Gunns 20" case and agreed to pay the four $155,088 for legal costs.
Defendant Adam Burling said: "This is a humiliating back down by Australia's largest woodchipper. This case has been a shambles from beginning to end. This result is a victory for free speech and Tasmania's forests."
This ends a legal saga that began in December 2004, when Gunns sued 20 individuals and organisations for involvement in a variety of protest actions and campaigns, which the company claimed had harmed their reputation and therefore their profits.
This included a campaign to convince Japanese consumers not to purchase woodchips from Tasmanian old-growth forests.
Gunns claimed $6.9 million damages from the defendants. The original 20 defendants included Greens politicians, Senator Bob Brown and member of the Tasmanian parliament Peg Putt and others, such as 60-year-old grandmother Lou Geraghty, sued for their involvement in local protest actions. Organisations sued included the Wilderness Society (TWS), Doctors for Forests and the Huon Environment Centre.
But the lawsuit failed to gain traction in court and Gunns reached settlements with most of the defendants. In March 2009, Gunns payed TWS $350,000 and dropped the proceedings against it.
The case against the remaining four defendants was due to go to trial in the Victorian Supreme Court on February 1. But last week the company withdrew the suit and agreed to pay costs.
"This is a commercial decision to avoid the need for a lengthy and expensive court case", a Gunns statement said.
Gunns has had to pay more than $1.3 million in settlements and costs to the 20 defendants.