Arrington loses libel case, but it doesn’t mean jack

sethiissuchadick.jpg

Michael Arrington and TechCrunch have lost a libel case brought against them in the U.K. by a former business associate, Sam Sethi.

The key word in that last sentence is “U.K.”. Libel cases are very difficult to fight in Britain and Arrington chose not to fight this one, resulting in a default judgment. British libel law is so plaintiff-friendly that it attracts “forum shoppers” who would be unable to win elsewhere. New York even has a law on the books to exclude even the possibility of U.K. libel judgments being collected locally.

Assuming TechCrunch has no assets to plunder in the U.K., the likely worst result for Arrington is being unable to visit the country without great inconvenience. (Update: This is not legal advice!)

In other words, the result doesn’t say anything meaningful about any of the parties.

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at besc...@gmail.com

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Arrington loses libel case, but it doesn’t mean jack

  1. Rob Beschizza says:

    I’ve edited the post to make clear that it isn’t legal advice.

    Slightly more formidable than you guessed, but only slightly!

  2. JACKSHOT says:

    Arrington had months to decide to fight this case against Sethi a UK citizen who brought a libel case against him.

    If Techcrunch was only available to read on the web in the USA, like Hulu, then I could understand your issue about jurisdiction TC.com can be read in the UK as can TC Europe which by the way is an asset in the UK.

    Arrington not coming to UK or Europe is a bonus, one less loudmouthed American now how do we get to ban Scoble!

  3. tobergill says:

    Heaven forbid that people who want to slander you should have like, I dunno, proof? The US system gives you the ability to state, for example, that the president isn’t really an American or that Vince Foster was murdered by the Clintons. That’s much more preferable to a fact-based system…..

  4. bex says:

    delete the wohuhuhuhu account

    nothing but spam

  5. Rob Beschizza says:

    “But you’re absolutely wrong that the only risk is if the defendant has assets in the U.K. or wants to visit there.”

    Beldar, I didn’t say this, nor give any legal advice. Why on earth would you think that I did?

    Looks rather like you took umbrage at a very brief summation of the likely outcome, and chose get all angry about unlikely outcomes that would be obviously so to anyone familiar with this case.

    The passive-aggressive wheedling in your final graf is excellent, but unimaginative. That said, you should be happy–you got to show the world you can consult wikipedia!

  6. phisrow says:

    What are you talking about? The US system is the one where the truth of your claims is a defence against libel charges(ie. a “fact-based system”). In the UK, truth isn’t a defense. Not a “fact-based system”.

    Obviously, some subset of libel cases filed in Britain are likely legitimate; but I’m going to look at cases filed against parties in California with a jaundiced eye.

  7. Thad E Ginataom says:

    I’m getting the impression that the British law of defamation is being seeing as a cash machine; all you have to do is sue.

    1. The English law of defamation is for the seriously rich. If you don’t have the money to finance your case, people can say what they like about you, you can’t afford to take it to court.

    2. That something is true is a defence. In case of public figures, it also a defence that something is fair comment.

    3. It can cost a lot to defend a defamation case too. Plaything of the rich; pocket filler of lawyers.

    I know nothing about this particular story whatsoever — just general comments on English law. Oh, and “IANAL” ;)

  8. Phil Hodgen says:

    The U.K. is, for defamation, the equivalent of a tax haven. Go there to do things that wouldn’t fly elsewhere.

  9. Beldar says:

    Fair enough! My thanks for the consideration.

  10. Beldar says:

    You might think twice before giving legal advice — especially when you’re so badly wrong as you are here, Mr. Beschizza.

    There are indeed times when a U.S. resident who’s sued in the U.K. might make a reasoned decision to ignore that lawsuit and let it proceed to default judgment (or “judgement,” as they spell it there). But you’re absolutely wrong that the only risk is if the defendant has assets in the U.K. or wants to visit there.

    Every state in the United States, implementing international treaties, has provisions by which foreign judgments may be “domesticated” — and once domesticated, they may be enforced by state and/or federal courts in the U.S. just like judgments rendered in American courts.

    Some defendants choose to fight the domestication proceedings here rather than fight the underlying lawsuit there. They may be able to persuade the American court (during the domestication proceedings) that the U.K. court (in the underlying lawsuit) lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendant because, for example, he lacked sufficient “minimum contacts” with the U.K. for its courts to have a basis to require him to appear and answer the libel complaint. But if the American court disagrees on that preliminary matter of personal jurisdiction — which it’s likely to do if, for example, the allegedly libelous statement was published or circulated in the U.K., and/or it was in the U.K. where the plaintiff’s reputation was injured — then the American court may well refuse to look behind (“permit a collateral attack upon”) the U.K. judgment, and instead simply enforce it as written.

    This is a complicated game of legal poker. With due respect, you haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about — and you may mislead others who think you do. Try giving some unsolicited opinions about, say, brain surgery or rocket science next time, perhaps.

  11. phisrow says:

    I don’t know about that. I’d say that winning a British libel judgment means that you filed a libel case there, which puts you under some suspicion, though not certainty, of being a forum shopping scumbag trying to supress legitimate speech…

  12. Anonymous says:

    Heaven forbid that people who want to slander you should have like, I dunno, proof? The US system gives you the ability to state, for example, that the president isn’t really an American or that Vince Foster was murdered by the Clintons. That’s much more preferable to a fact-based system…..

    Of course you where presenting American’s freedom to express those opinions as your post-apocalyptic sky is falling example of all that is wrong with the world…

    I neither believe that Vince Foster was murdered by the Clintons, nor do I believe Obama is not an American citizen… however, I am reassured that idiots are free to make those claims. I find the type of censorship that is becoming popular in the previously liberal democracies of Europe terrifying.

  13. Beldar says:

    … [Y]ou got to show the world you can consult wikipedia!

    Actually, my comments are based on the fact that I’m a licensed and practicing blogging on legal topics of interest to the general public. Among my pet peeves are people who confidently state supposed facts and/or opinions about legal topics that are likely to mislead their readers.

    You write, for example, that “New York even has a law on the books to exclude even the possibility of U.K. libel judgments being collected locally.” That’s an over-broad and potentially misleading description of the so-called New York Libel Terrorism Protection Act. It did indeed add one additional ground for New York residents to contest the domestication of foreign-state judgments, but how that ground will end up being interpreted and applied by the New York courts is far from a settled question, and at best is likely to be a source of protracted (and expensive) future litigation by someone; your post implies it’s some sort of magic bullet, and that’s just wishful thinking. In any event New York is just one out of forty-nine states. I know nothing of TechCrunch beyond what a very quick skim through its website might suggest, but it doesn’t appear at a glance to be a company whose entire business and asset base is in New York, and neither does Mr. Arrington appear to be a New Yorker with no assets elsewhere. So the relevance of the new New York law you’ve described is pretty questionable.

    I’m not worried about what you’ve written misleading Mr. Arrington or TechCrunch; they almost certainly have competent lawyers who actually understand, and have explained to them, their real risks.

    But my problem with your post, sir, is that someone else who’s sued in a foreign jurisdiction — someone who’s legally unsophisticated, and of limited financial means with limited access to quality legal advice — may well decide to ignore that lawsuit and let it proceed to a default judgment in at least partial reliance upon what you’ve written. They may think from reading what you’ve written that if they don’t have assets in the U.K., then their “likely worst result” would be that they’d be “unable to visit [that] country without great inconvenience.” Such a person would be in for a very rude surprise as a local sheriff in, for example, Los Angeles county served a judicial writ freezing their bank accounts or setting in motion an auction for their non-homestead real estate.

    As I said originally, ignoring a foreign lawsuit and letting it proceed to judgment by default may sometimes be a sound, well-considered decision; but it’s not a risk-free one for anyone, and not infrequently it’s the wrong decision. It’s almost never a simple decision. You’re right that your post isn’t explicitly phrased as being legal advice for others to heed and follow. But when you make dangerously misleading categorical statements about legal matters, you nevertheless do create a substantial risk of misleading someone to their detriment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

 

More BB

Boing Boing Video

Flickr Pool

Digg

Wikipedia

Advertise

Displays ads via FM Tech

RSS and Email

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution. Boing Boing is a trademark of Happy Mutants LLC in the United States and other countries.

FM Tech