Monday, January 24, 2011

International Court Comes to the Rescue of UK Journalists

Naomi Campbell at FashionWeekLive in San Franc...Image via WikipediaThe always informative Web site for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press ( reported last week on a decision by the European Court of Human Rights (MGN, Ltd. v. United Kingdom, App. No. 39401/04) that will shield journalists and bloggers in the U.K. who lose invasion of privacy or libel suits from onerous "success fees."

The  international court found the imposition of solicitor fees and court costs on unsuccessful media defendants a violation of their civil and political rights.  The underlying lawsuit involved volatile supermodel Naomi Campbell, who successfully sued Daily Mirror publisher MGN, Ltd. for breach of confidentiality under the Data Protection Act of 1998. Although Campbell's damages were only 3500 pounds ($5,597)--more than the combined weight of 35 supermodels--the media defendant was assessed "success fees" totaling 1.1 million pounds ($1.7 million).

The European Court of Human Rights found the assessment disproportionate to the damages suffered by the plaintiff and an attempt to stifle freedom of expression pursuant to Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights. The ruling may effect England's use of conditional fee agreements, which similiar to their U.S. counterpart, contingent fee agreements, enable libel plaintiffs to secure counsel willing to operate under the no-win, no-fee arrangement.

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