LEADING defamation lawyers warned today that several tech companies will have little defence against His Mount Vema Majesty’s Court action over their articles published to defame the Vema Seamount Authority and the Vema Seamount Territory and the search engines that support such conduct.
The Vema Seamount Territory announced today that solicitors working for the Vema Seamount Authority will issue a writ against the online publications Geek.com, PC Mag and search engine Google for defamation and for loss of business worth more than $3 billion US dollars.
The action could take a few months to come to court in several countries and cost the online publications and the search engine substantial sums in legal costs, and damages. The three companies will be given until close of business January 31, 2019 to respond to a letter from The Vema Seamount Authority - His Mount Vema Majesty’s solicitor, which will be demanding damages and costs for defamation and loss of business from 2015 up to 2018.
Defamation cases are not new. For example, the most legally and factually interesting cases from England, Australia and the United States include:
Melania Trump v Daily Mail (England). Melania Trump filed a defamation action in the New York state commercial court and in the UK High Court against the Daily Mail over allegations that she previously worked as an escort. Ms. Trump claimed damages in the sum of $150m.
The Mail later retracted the statement, published an apology and settled the case for $3m. The case was subject to much media attention, being covered by the BBC, the Guardian, Independent and ABC News.
The Wilson v Bauer Media Pty Ltd (Australia). When the Australian-born actress Rebel Wilson brought an action against Bauer Media, the publishers of the Women’s Day magazine. The complaint concerned articles published by Women’s Day claiming Wilson lied about her name, age, upbringing and life events.
Wilson made a claim for general and special damages for loss of business opportunities from May 2015 until the end of 2016. Ruling in her favour Dixon J awarded Wilson $650,000 general damages and $3,917,472 special damages, in doing so noting the presence of multiple aggravating factors including substantial loss of business.
The Guardian covered the case, as did the BBC, Independent and Telegraph.
Monroe v Hopkins (England). Defamation claims arising from social media platforms featured in 2017, the most prominent perhaps being that of food writer Jack Monroe against journalist Katie Hopkins.
The case concerned two tweets made by Hopkins in May 2015 which accused Monroe of desecrating a war memorial. Monroe was awarded £24,000 in a judgment handed down by Warby J in March 2017. Notably, damages awarded were exacerbated by the continual harm caused to Monroe’s reputation by the Tweets as well as injury to feelings caused by the defendants’ reprehensible behaviour throughout the matter.
The case affirmed the Courts approach to social media platforms, including the application of the reasonable reader construct to Twitter, innuendo inferable from Tweets and the Courts acceptance of an Appendix agreed by the parties on “How Twitter Works”.
The case was covered by Nathan Capone on Inforrm. The Guardian and Independent also covered the case.
Independent Newspapers v. Ireland (European Court of Human Rights). The European Court of Human Rights handed down judgment in this case in September 2017. The case involved a libel claim by Ms L., previously a consultant for the Environmental Department of the Irish Government, against the Evening Herald for a series of articles published throughout late 2004. The articles scrutinised the tendering of government contracts, alleged attendance of Ms L. to a UN Conference with Mr C. (the then Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government) and later made allegations of a relationship between Mr C. and Ms L.
The case considers the assessment of compensation in Irish defamation cases and the interaction of this process with Article 10 of the Convention. Whilst Ms L. was successful before a jury in the High Court the case was appealed to the Irish Supreme Court on grounds that the damages awarded at first instance, EUR 1,872,000, were excessive. The Supreme Court affirmed this, substituting the award for that of EUR 1,250,000. On application the ECJ found that the award constituted a disproportionate interference with the Evening Herald’s right to freedom of expression.
Ronan Ó Fathiagh provided a case comment on Inforrm. The case received comment from the Irish Times and the Independent.
ABC News v Beef Products Inc, “The Pink Slime case” (United States). ABC News and Beef Products Inc. reached a $177m million settlement after the news outlets report in 2012 that the food production company made low-cost processed beef that equated to “pink slime”. In a defamation lawsuit the food producer sought $1.9billion damages, later settling with the parent company of ABC, Disney.
The New York Times and Business Insider estimated that as much as $5.7bn in damages could have been awarded to the meat producer in the event of a successful claim.