High Court Grants Judgement for libel defamation on Facebook

Breaking News: Pinder Reaux Secure Successful Result For Facebook Defamation Victim

Social Media is in the news yet again and this time, it is the turn of Facebook.  Lucky for them however, they are not the ones actually under the spotlight.

This case is about a couple of friends who parted company in 2012.  However, where in the past, one party would speak to their own group of friends and badmouth the other, now with the digital era being involved in almost every aspect of our life, spiteful comments can be made to a huge group of people at one time…and that is precisely what happened in this case.

On ending their friendship, Ms Sharon Smith of the GI Jane Bootcamp fame decided to post a lengthy rant on her Facebook wall.  This was then re-posted by her sister on her wall.  The content of this missive was malicious and spiteful lies which brought misery to our client, Ms Joanne Walder.  Unwarranted and unfounded allegations were made by Ms Smith concerning Ms Walder including comments alleging that she was guilty of criminal acts of violence against persons and property, and even worse, accusations that Ms. Walder was committing evil acts against Ms. Smith’s children. These are serious allegations when made in private, let alone when publicised and amplified by means of a Facebook ‘Wall’. The libellous comments which were displayed to at least 650 Facebook users also drew numerous comments and Facebook ‘likes’ from a number of other Facebook users. 

Despite Ms Smith having a closed Facebook account and therefore not being visible to all account holders, the fact that her sister had reposted the comments on her wall and taking in to account the very concerning content, the High Court has granted Ms Walder a procedural judgment for libel in her favour following Ms. Smith’s failure to following the procedure of the High Court, namely replying to the claim form and particulars of claim in good time. The damages for the libel are likely to be substantial and a High Court hearing has been set, in the Queen’s Bench Division, for the 11th February 2014 pertaining to the level of damages and costs that Ms Smith will be ordered to pay Ms. Walder for the libel.  As Ms Walder’s lawyers, we have, along with requesting the Court award Ms Walder damages and aggravated damages for libel defamation, also requested an injunction be granted against Ms Smith to prevent her from libelling Ms Walder in the future.   

This case continues and we will provide an update once damages have been determined.  But what is certain and made clear yet again: Freedom of speech on line exists – but just be wary that if you cause damage to someone’s reputation, you can be sued and the level of damages awarded can be significant.