UK Judge Attracts Libel Tourists With $775k Award To New Zealand Cricket Player Over Defamatory Tweet

from the twibel-tourism dept

The UK has become famous for its overly aggressive libel laws and how they lead to libel tourism, with people from other countries running internet libel cases through the UK to take advantage of the favorable laws. Add to that the rise of Twitter, and questions about Twitter libel, and you’ve got an interesting legal situation to deal with. THREsq reports that perhaps the UK is now about to become the hotspot for “twiibel tourism” after it awarded $775k to a New Zealand cricket player, Chris Cairns, after the ex-chair of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi, had tweeted “Chris Cairns removed from the IPL auction list due to his past record in match fixing. This was done by the Governing Council today.” The news report doesn’t say if this is true or not, but the full ruling suggests there isn’t enough evidence to support the claim.

Even if we accept that the accusation of match fixing is, indeed, false, there are still questions about jurisdiction and the size of the award — made even more pressing considering how few people actually saw the tweet. From the court ruling:

The original Tweet was received by only a limited number of followers within England and Wales. One expert calculated that they numbered 95, the other 35. The parties have sensibly agreed that I should take the figure of 65. The second publication, to Cricinfo was on their website only for period of hours. The expert’s figures for numbers of readers of this publication are respectively 450 and 1500. I shall proceed on the basis that about 1000 people read the second publication, which I have found carried the less grave but nonetheless serious meaning that there were strong grounds for suspecting that the claimant had been involved in match fixing. In respect of the second publication I also bear in mind that Cricinfo have settled with the Claimant, paying him £7,000 damages and a further sum for costs.

And yet the court still decides that the harm is so great that Modi should be hit with massive damages. All this is going to do is ensure a flood of such cases in the UK.

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Comments on “UK Judge Attracts Libel Tourists With $775k Award To New Zealand Cricket Player Over Defamatory Tweet”

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Saurabh says:


By the way 640,000 of that amount is legal costs for Chris Cairns. Also, outside of the online world, Modi was also in a situation where he effectively destroyed Chris career (as was discussed in the full ruling). He could have played a few more seasons professionally but with those allegations, he was unable to secure a contract anywhere.

The only point of contention in my mind, is the jurisdiction of the British court.

qyiet (profile) says:

Re: compensation..

As a public figure Chris Cairns needs to man up and learn to take twitter comments in his stride.

If Modi was a dick to Chris apart from that, and somehow managed to cost him extra seasons (possible, but debatable, Cairns was getting long in the tooth) and that was illegal then he should be punished for that, not by proxy over a tweet.

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s about half a dozen serious reasons why this ruling is garbage, yet you focus on a red herring about how many people supposedly saw the tweet? Coming from the guy that coined the term “Streisand Effect”, you should know damn well that any information posted on the Internet is available to everyone in the world with Internet access.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Wut?

Actually they settled for ?75,000 and the judge upped it by 20% due to the egregious nature of Modi’s own lawyers comments during the case.
From the Guardian’s report :

“[Modi’s lawyers} had launched a sustained and aggressive” attack on Cairns, which must be taken to have been made on his instructions. In Mr Thwaites’s closing speech to the court, the words “liar”, “lie” and “lies” were used 24 times. To reflect that, said the judge, he had increased the damages by about 20%, from a starting point of ?75,000 to ?90,000.”

If this is correct and Modi had instructed them to do this, then I agree with the Judge about upping the settlement (Settlements are not etched in stone since the court still has to accept the conditions of the contract)

My advise to Modi is to probably change solicitors/barristers

G Thompson (profile) says:

Though the UK defamation laws and their so called long-arm reach are IMHO absolutely ludicrous and are basically trying to enact British sovereignty laws in regards to defamation onto the whole planet (not unlike what the USA tries to do with other torts) I have to state that the amount awarded by the court of $775,000 is simply not correct.

The Damages awarded were of ?90000 (approx $140,000 US)

The amount of approximately $635,000US though was for legal costs, which are actually standard since remember that this was sent all the way to the High Court in London at the bequest of Modi and his counsel.

He wasn’t hit with massive damages since ?90K damages is actually on the low side for any defamation case.

Interestingly the Judge has granted the right to appeal (though not on liability) and Modi is considering taking that to the Appeal court, which is probably the best bet since if he wins that appeal he will not have to pay full costs (only the ?90K plus maybe appeal costs) but if he loses he will still have to pay ?90K + the legal costs of all matters. better to gamble on paying another $100K (or less) in legal costs than in paying $635K and never knowing.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

We (and by that I mean you now) have somehow changed the whole subject of this post from libel to cricket to the the ultimate question of life, the Universe and Everything.

I offer you a Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster for your awesomeness!

Of course in a perfect Universe that would be Rugby and Cricket played with Slartibartfast as an umpire! And Australia always winning 😉

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

You do realise hitting a ball with a willow bat whilst wearing white clothes is played in all Commonwealth countries..

Well, except for those commonwealth countries that rebelled back in the late 1700s. But we Americans always screw up your sports, like how we took football, a game played with your feet and called it soccer, and then took a game like rugby and not played with your feet (except for the occasional kicker,) and called it football.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

I always thought Gridiron was Rugby, played with armour (cause of the bad boo boos you might get) extended out to triple the time, with two sides a piece because it’s too hard to figure out both offensive and defensive moves by just one player (Derp), and made interesting to watch by the inclusion of marching bands and scantily clad gymnists to keep the crowd amused.

But hey that’s just my tired thoughts, and It’s approx 3am on a Saturday morning here, so I think before I get placed on a wanted list by the whole USA I’ll go to bed. 😉

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I always thought Gridiron was Rugby, played with armour (cause of the bad boo boos you might get) extended out to triple the time, with two sides a piece because it’s too hard to figure out both offensive and defensive moves by just one player (Derp), and made interesting to watch by the inclusion of marching bands and scantily clad gymnists to keep the crowd amused.

Hey, I live here and I believe you summed it up 100% correct. Well, that is why I occasionally watch football…scantily clad gymnists. I prefer Rugby…

so I think before I get placed on a wanted list by the whole USA I’ll go to bed. 😉

You aren’t on mine, friend.

Anonymous Coward says:

You may want to pay attention to the story. The guy who wrote the tweet is based in London, according to Wikipedia “Due to security reasons the Modis had left Mumbai in May 2010 and have relocated to London”.

So therefore, this isn’t “libel tourism”, just a case brought in the location of the author. Seems pretty logical and not at all outrageous. Where would you expect them to file suit, in the US?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Please explain how a NZ resident is allowed to take advantage of UK law?
They are different countries with different laws, the suit was brought in the UK because the UK lets you sue for hurt feelings. If there was damage to the players reputation would that not have happened where he lives or plays? (Neither of those seem to be the UK).

While Merika seems to think our laws trump the laws of other countries, this is not supposed to be how it works.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually Chris Cairns the cricketer has a long period of living in the UK as a kid and later on as an adult with lots of freinds, family and ties to England. Therefore he had enough standing to take this action. Also NZ is still technically part of the Commonwealth and it wasn’t long ago that their highest court, as in Australia, was the Privy Council. Also the Queen of England is still the Queen of New Zealand (Head of State)

Yes I know if you are not confused you haven’t been paying attention.

Just know that even the English papers, and myself on this one, do not see this as form of Libel Tourism. There is just too much standing within the physical jurisdiction of the UK on this case. And the judge was very specific to ONLY include those forms that actually did affect the UK and nowhere else

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m surprised you’re asking that question. The law in Britain was broken by a Brit. The Kiwi filed properly in the country where the transgression took place. If you defamed someone from another country while being a US resident, they could likewise file suit against you in the US, since that is the governing law.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

And in many of these cases, the connection to Britain is much more tenuous.

And the US seems to think their law is the governing law of the planet. Extraditing someone for running a link site legal in their home country. Seizing a domain of a Spanish site ruled to be legal in Spain.

It is sometimes puzzling how it is people not living in the country are allowed the rights extended to citizens of that country. While the Brit broke UK law, no one in the UK said boo about it. Someone from outside the country used a law that gives them rights under UK law.

I guess the better question would be why didn’t he sue under the NZ law?

Simon Chamberlain (profile) says:

Not really libel tourism....

The judgment specifically argues that this isn’t libel tourism, because:

“[Cairns] went to school in England, as did his children, and he played county cricket in England for Nottinghamshire in 7 seasons during a period of 15 years. [Modi] has since mid-2010 been resident in England. A trial in India would have involved very long delays. No application was made to stay the proceedings on “forum shopping” grounds, and if it had been I consider that it would have failed. The case is properly before the court in England.”

I think the key point there is that Modi’s solicitors didn’t even try to get the trial moved (“no application was made to stay the proceedings…”).

Then there’s the question of how different New Zealand and Indian libel law is from English law. Given that NZ and Indian law draws heavily on English law, I’d suggest that there isn’t much of a difference.

Which all suggests to me that this isn’t as egregious as say a Russian suing a German in England.

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