Sarah Wilkinson is the Head of Litigation at Curzon Green Solicitors. In this article she looks at the first case of libel following comments made on Twitter.
A former Test cricket captain, Chris Cairns, made legal history on 26 March 2012 by winning £90,000 libel damages from Lalit Modi following a tweet he posted that was read by, what was concluded to be, only 65 people in the UK.
New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns, sued Lalit Modi, ex-chairman of the Indian Premier League, at the High Court in Britain’s first Twitter libel trial. This is the first substantive UK "Twibel" case dealt with by the courts.
Mr Justice Bean ruled that Mr Modi had wrongly accused Mr Cairns on the social messaging network of being involved in match fixing. It is likely that Mr Modi will pay costs of more than £400,000, as well as the damages of £90,000.
For all you tweeters out there here is a three point guide to avoid a twibel case against you: -
Get your facts right
The most important point is to make absolutely sure that what you are writing is true. Do not make claims or accusations that you cannot prove. Even if you think you can do this, be cautious. it may be problematic to prove this in the court.
The test of what the words mean is what a reasonable reader is likely to take as their natural and ordinary meaning, in their full context. What you personally intended to say is therefore irrelevant.
Think about the implications on the person you are writing about
If what you are saying is going to have serious implications to the person being remarked upon, especially if it has a bearing upon their professional career, make sure that you can prove what you are writing is true.
Although not always an absolute defence if you got it wrong an apology can go a long way and save a lot of legal costs in having to defend a libel case. Also early removal of the offending article will also assist.
For more information about defamation and how we can assist you, please click here.