Tag Archives: libel

Can a ‘Tweet’ be defamatory? Chris Lance Cairns v. Lalit Modi [2010] EWHC 2859 (QB)

November 26, 2010

1 Comment

Read the full case here: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2010/2859.html

The case concerned a tweet on 5 January 2010 from the defendant, Lalit Modi, who at the time was both Chairman and Commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and Vice-President of the Board of Cricketing Control for India (BCCI). Modi was later suspended from these positions in April and ceased to occupy them from September 2010. The case was further complicated by a claim against an online cricket magazine – Cricinfo UK who repeated the defendant’s words (although a New Zealand News site [http://tvnz.co.nz/cricket-news/chris-cairns-pushes-twitter-libel-case-3900692] states that Cricinfo has now paid Cairns unspecified damages).

Modi was alleged to have made comments in a tweet that the claimant had been sacked from an Indian Cricket League team (Chandigarh Lions) because of match-fixing, and not as Cairns states because of knee problems from a charity walk. While the original tweet was removed from LalitKModi’s profile 16hrs later, a cricketing blog [http://shortofalength.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/chris-cairns-banned-from-joining-the-ipl-yes-says-lalit-modi-on-twitter/] has uploaded an alleged screen capture of the tweet from cache – can anything ever be deleted anymore?!

Cairns, quite understandably perhaps, argued that this tweet was offensive and a libellous body blow; by contrast, Modi denied that any real or substantial tort occurred within the jurisdiction and brought proceedings to have the claim set aside [2] for abuse of process given its ‘trivial’ nature and speculative effect.

The High Court were therefore asked to draw a line in the crease, and in particular to answer whether a ‘tweet’ could be published and if so, how its readership could be calculated? Although Mr Justice Tugendhat heard conflicting evidence from two experts as to how publication could be determined from Modi’s followers on Twitter, ultimately Tugendhat J decided that the actual number of direct followers was irrelevant given the sensational nature of the allegation within the tweet [30] and the risk that these allegations might be further published elsewhere. Indeed, he held at [42] that the number of publishees was only one factor in an abuse of process claim. Cairns is therefore free to continue with this action to trial in order to protect and vindicate his reputation, any damages that follow this decision are very much a secondary consideration.

Watch this space, or should that be wicket…..?

Youtube Video of “Lalit Modi ‘On The Record’ – Full Interview”:

Continue reading...

Robert Dee, dubbed the “World’s Worst Tennis Player” loses…..his libel case against the Daily Telegraph

November 22, 2010


Read the Full case report: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/QB/2010/924.html

and the Daily Telegraph article about the case: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/tennis/7644181/Worlds-worst-tennis-player-loses-again.html

Robert Dee’s own website contains an extraordinary collection of 40 apologies, corrections and reports from Newspapers that printed the same story as the Daily Telegraph but ultimately settled or offered apologies: http://www.robertdee.org/apologies_and_corrections (indeed he even goes as far as scanning onto the website the cheque for £12,500 that he received from the BBC in damages!)

The case concerns an article published in the 23rd April 2008 Daily Telegraph about Robert Dee, a 23yr old British Tennis Professional. The article suggested on both a paragraph on the front page and on the back page of the sports supplement that Dee had lost 54 matches in a row on the International Professional Circuit and was therefore the “world’s worst tennis professional”.

Dee sued the newspaper for defamation on 21st April 2009, 2 days before the expiry of the 1yr limitation period. His solicitors claimed £500,000(!!!!) and claimed that the front page item could blight his potential future career as a tennis coach [8] as while the claimant had lost these matches, he had had some success in the domestic Spanish league.

The newspaper denied that the article was defamatory, but in the event that it was, it relied upon a fair comment defence.

The Court held that, following Charleston, the key question was whether various (front and back page) articles were “sufficiently closely connected as to be regarded as a single publication” [29], not whether these articles were separate, on multiple pages or written by different authors. Given this, it quickly became apparent that the front and back page articles needed to be taken together. Mrs Justice Sharp DBE did however note at [30] that in reality many people may only have read one of the articles, and it was theoretically possible to argue that in more controversial cases, this issue could be determined at trial.

Whether the article was capable of a defamatory meaning was fairly straightforward, as it could suggest that the claimant lacked talent or “unreasonably and unrealistically persists in a career as a professional tennis player which is an expensive waste of money and doomed to failure” [38]. The problem was in evidencing that this caused Dee to be shunned or avoided. In the end, although the claimant argued that the focus of the complaint was that the article suggested incompetence or a lack of skill, the real complaint was one of exposing Dee to ridicule by making him look “absurdly bad at tennis” [55].

It is worth noting Sharp J’s comments that: “In my view it is not easy to translate these principles to the sporting arena, even though I entirely accept that many sportsmen and sportswomen, and the Claimant is one of them, are professionals who earn their living through their sporting skill, or endeavour to do so. It is difficult to characterise an allegation of relative lack of sporting skill, even if it leads to the bottom of whichever league the person or team participates in as necessarily imputing incompetence, quite apart from the question which could plainly arise as to whether such a suggestion is purely a value judgement. Such as allegation might be said to dent someone’s pride rather than their personal reputation, depending of course on the context. In every race, match or other sporting event, someone has to come last: that is the nature of competitive sport. Losing in sport is, as Mr Price [Defendant Counsel] submits, an occupational hazard” [49].

Sharp J was also highly critical of the suggestions both that the article could affect a future career as a coach at some unspecified time in the future because of the paper’s criticism of his athletic ability [53], and of the claimant’s pleaded case. Indeed at [58], She states that a claimant must “state clearly what his case is so the relevant issues are properly delineated in advance of trial and so the defendant has a proper opportunity to defend itself against what the complainant is really complaining about.”

The problem the claimant had is that the following, somewhat damning facts, were uncontroversial:

  • The claimant had a run of 54 consecutive defeats during which he did not win one set, in tournaments under the jurisdiction of the ITF and ATP
  • This consecutive run of defeats is a record equalling worst ever run of defeats in such tournaments
  • While the claimant also played (with some success) in domestic Spanish tournaments, these competitions did not directly award World ranking points

When at [109], the Court concluded that the article did draw a distinction between his performance on the international tennis circuit and the Spanish tournaments, the claimant really had no case left. He could not complain about the central facts of the article, as these were effectively true! As such the Defendant was awarded summary judgment, game set and match to the newspaper.

Youtube News Report of Robert’s Tennis Victory (@ 1:26 onwards):

see also a great blog posting on the case from the Jack of Kent: http://jackofkent.blogspot.com/2010/05/libel-and-tennis-trophies-of-robert-dee.html

Continue reading...

Please don’t gamble in the comments section of the blog…….

July 23, 2009


Source: Sunday Business Post write-up: http://www.sbpost.ie/post/pages/p/story.aspx-qqqt=Business+Of+Law-qqqm=nav-qqqid=41591-qqqx=1.asp; Full case report: http://www.bailii.org/ie/cases/IEHC/2009/H133.html

Mulvaney & Others v. Sporting Exchange Ltd (Trading as Betfair) & others [2009] IEHC 133

The two linked cases both concern bookmakers (Seamus Mulvaney and Ellen Martin) who are claiming damages for libellous comments posted by third parties on a forum hosted by Betfair Ltd. Although a number of issues arise in each of the cases, the main focus in this preliminary judgment was on the applicability of European Directive 2000/31/EC (the E-Commerce Directive) which had been transposed into Irish law by the European Communities (Directive 2000/1/EC) Regulations, 2003 (SI 69 of 2003) ahead of a full defamation trial.

This issue is important because while the E-Commerce Directive was designed to remove obstacles to cross-border online services, Article 14 of the Directive can also exempt internet intermediaries from liability for things they host, but did not create. The problem for Betfair is that Article 1(5)(d) of the Directive does not apply to gambling activities. If the court therefore held that the chatroom constituted gambling or betting, then Betfair could not rely on the Directive as a defence.

Ultimately, at [4.15] the court decided that because ‘no significant nexus’ operated between the chatroom forum and the betting sections of the website, no gambling did take place in that area and the Directive did apply.

Given that Betfair could rely on the Directive, the next questions to be answered were whether Betfair was an “intermediary service provider” and if so whether provision of a chatroom comes within the Directive? At [5.14], the Court agreed that it did and held that the use of a chatroom forum by third parties did amount to hosting an ‘information society service’ for the purposes of the Directive. Betfair can therefore rely on the E-Commerce Directive as a defence at the full defamation trial, although whether it will succeed or not will depend on the action that Betfair ultimately took when it became aware of the comments.

Continue reading...

Mosley Privacy Case

February 19, 2009


Download the Radio 4 Podcast (link will expire on 24th Feb): http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/podcasts/law/

Sources: http://www.lawupdates.co.uk/2008/10/max-mosley-v-uk.html ; http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/jul/24/mosley.privacy

On 29th September 2008, Steeles Law LLP (Solicitors) have filed an application to take Mosley’s case to the European Court of Human Rights under ECHR Article 8 (the Right to Privacy) seeking to ensure that journalists have a legal obligation to contact the people they write about, prior to publishing any story about them. Indeed, the basis of Max Mosley v. UK is best summarised by Dominic Crossley (Steeles Law LLP) stating: “…although we all have a right to privacy, it is entirely up to the editor of a newspaper whether or not we are able to exercise that right in any effective or meaningful way. The editor of a newspaper…can take a decision to publish material which may ruin a life or destroy a family, safe in the knowledge that even if publication is later held to be unlawful, there will be no significant consequences for him”


Mosley had earlier won £60,000 in an action for damages against the News of the World in the High Court, after the paper falsely alleged that Mosley had taken part in a ‘Nazi theme’ orgy on the 28th March that year (Max Mosley v. News Group Newspapers [2008] EWHC 1777 (QB)).

Mr Justice Eady held that Mosley had had ‘a reasonable expectation of privacy’ under the equitable remedy of breach of confidence. While the paper justified the scoop on the basis that “the Claimant had for entertainment and sexual gratification been “mocking the humiliating way the Jews were treated”, or “parodying Holocaust horrors”, there could be a public interest in that being revealed at least to those in the FIA to whom he is accountable”.” These charges were not made out, (or indeed investigated thoroughly by the paper) and therefore there was no public interest in either the disclosure of the orgy, or of the secret filming [171].

Although Mosley only sued for Privacy rather than libel in the UK courts, he defends this reasoning as it produced a quicker court appearance, and he reserves the right to launch a defamation action depending on how the charges fare on the continent. Defamation and indeed criminal proceedings are currently being conducted against News of the World in France and Germany.

Continue reading...