US Claimants win High Court defamation action

April 10, 2015

In the case of The Bussey Law Firm PC and Timothy Raymond Bussey v Jason Paige (aka Jay Paige) [2015] EWHC 563(QB) the High Court in London ordered £50,000 damages after finding a false posting on the Plaintiff’s Google Maps profile was defamatory.

The Defendant admitted that the posting of the negative review of the Plaintiff firm and it’s principal had come from his Google Account but he had denied he was responsible for it.

Sir David Eady, sitting as a High Court Judge, considered various hypothetical explanations from the Defendant but ultimately considered the most likely explanation, on the balance of probability, was that the posting was from the Defendant’s account and was authored and authorised by him. Whilst it appeared improbable that anyone hacked into the Defendant’s account, there was also no evidence that anyone did so and no reason why anyone would, with a grudge against the Plaintiff, attempt to go down that route. The Court further commented that the most likely motivation for the Defendant to attack the Plaintiff was likely to be financial.

The Court also confirmed that the purpose of compensatory general damages is three fold. The Court must compensate for hurt feelings and distress, for injury to reputation, along with bearing in mind the need to order damages which will serve as an outward and visible sign of vindication. In this instance the Court was prepared to award a sum for punitive damages but due to the voluntary cap at £50,000 it did not need to do so.

The Court also noted that the Plaintiff sought to place no reliance on publication of the defamatory material in England and Wales but only that in Colorado, USA. The Court further noted that it is recognised that a Plaintiff seeking a remedy in this jurisdiction regarding a defamatory publication anywhere abroad must plead, and if necessary prove, that the words in question are actionable under the lex loci delicti doctrine (i.e. the law of the place where the tort was committed), as well as under English Law.

This case is an example of where one may make a defamatory comment online in one jurisdiction in respect of a person or corporate body which is based in another jurisdiction, and may have to defend defamation proceedings taken in their own jurisdiction.

This is a general guide and it is not intended nor should it be taken as legal advice.

Should you have queries about the content of this article, please do not hesitate to contact Fergal Maguire.

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