Defamation – will my claim succeed?

Defamation – will my claim succeed?

Given the increased prominence of the internet and social media in today's world, it is becoming easier to circulate defamatory comments about individuals and businesses, which may significantly affect their reputation.

For small businesses, the effect of defamatory comments can be magnified where it results in trading losses, which may affect cash flow. For individuals, there is a risk that a bad reputation may affect their ability to gain employment, among other things. In any event, a defamatory comment often causes injury to an individual's feelings.

Under the Defamation Act 2013, a statement is not defamatory unless it has caused, or is likely to cause, "serious harm". Harm to the reputation of a profit organisation is not "serious" unless it has caused or is likely to cause the organisation "serious financial loss".

What constitutes "serious harm" is unclear, and is to be decided by the Court in each case. The recent Supreme Court decision of Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd and another [2019] UKSC 27 confirmed that "serious harm" is not presumed from the fact that the words have a defamatory meaning. Claimants are required to provide evidence that the words have caused, or are likely to cause serious harm, whether financial or otherwise.

The guidance given in Lachaux may create difficulty for claimants looking to bring defamation claims. It may be difficult for claimants to provide evidence that they have suffered harm, other than injury to feelings, and it is unclear as to whether the Court will consider the harm to be "serious", in any case.

It is therefore essential, before making a defamation claim, to seek legal advice on your prospects of success. Our dedicated litigation team provides expert advice on a variety of litigation matters, including defamation.

Clapham & Collinge are committed to providing clear, honest and up-front advice, making you aware of your options. We will be open and transparent with our fees, allowing you to make an informed decision.

To find out more, contact us on 01603 693500, or e-mail us using the online 'Make an enquiry' form on our website. Appointments are available at our Norwich, North Walsham and Sheringham offices.