Labour leader Andrew Little will spend the weekend in limbo on the verdict of his defamation trial - the jury was still deliberating and will meet again on Monday to continue.

After a five day trial, the jury was sent out on Friday morning to decide whether Little had defamed hoteliers Earl and Lani Hagaman for comments he made about a $100,000 donation to the National Party a month before their Scenic Hotel Group secured a management contract over a hotel in Niue.

The jurors returned to the courtroom twice to ask questions during about five hours of deliberations.

The Hagamans have sued Little for statements he made in one press release and five media interviews on TVNZ, Radio NZ and BFM.


They are seeking a maximum of $2.3 million in damages, including $300,000 in punitive damages.

In summing up, Justice Karen Clark told the jury to put aside any sympathies they might feel for any of those concerned or any political views they might have.

She said if the jury decided damages were required, they should assess what was "fair and reasonable" for both the Hagamans and Little but did not need to consider what was affordable for Little.

She said they should not try to compare the case with other damages awards in defamation cases.

The jury will also have to decide if Little will benefit from the defence of qualified privilege that Justice Clark ruled applied to all the statements the Hagamans are suing on.

She said that privilege applied where a person had a moral, social, or legal duty to make the comments they had - Little had claimed he had a moral duty as Leader of the Opposition to hold the Government to account and the Government was his target.

However, Justice Clark said the jury could decide Little had lost that privilege if he had either been motivated predominantly by ill-will toward Earl or Lani Hagaman in his comments, or had improperly taken advantage of the privilege.

She told the jury it was the Hagamans' job to prove either of those had happened, referring to their lawyer Richard Fowler's argument that Little had paid little regard to the Hagamans because they were National Party donors, had made no attempt to check with the Hagamans before speaking publicly and use of language such as "stinks to high heaven" and "murky."