Fladgate fails to overturn ruling in cricketer’s Twitter libel case

Collyer Bristow has recorded another success in its Twitter libel case for cricketer Chris Cairns.

This morning the Court of Appeal (CoA) upheld Mr Justice Bean’s decision in the High Court to award damages of £90,000 to the firm’s client, who was accused of match fixing on the social networking site.

Collyer Bristow partner Rhory Robertson and One Brick Court’s Andrew Caldecott QC and Ian Helme were instructed by Cairns and successfully argued in March that a 24-word tweet from former Indian Pemier League (IPL) chairman Lalit Modi was defamatory (26 March 2012).

Modi turned to Fladgate partner Lawrence Abramson, who instructed Ron Thwaites QC and Jonathan Price of Ely Place Chambers. They appealed the level of damages, which was increased from a starting point of £75,000 because of the sustained and aggressive assertion of the plea of justification by Thwaites (9 April 2012).

Cairns had told the trial that the allegations posted in January 2010 – read by up to 95 people in the UK and then repeated on a cricketing website for a number of hours – reduced his career as a former captain of New Zealand to “dust”.

In its judgment, the CoA states that the damages award was “proportionate to the seriousness of the allegation and its direct impact on Mr Cairns himself and will serve to vindicate his reputation”.

The CoA also made observations on “the percolation phenomenon” – upholding Bean J’s ruling that the capacity of an allegation to ‘go viral’ on the internet and particularly social media is a legitimate factor to be taken into account in the assessment of damages.

During the trial, Bean J said that Modi had “singularly failed to provide any reliable evidence that Mr Cairns was involved in match fixing or spot fixing, or even that there were strong grounds for suspicion that he was”.

The CoA had already refused to grant Modi permission to appeal the decision.

Collyer Bristow is expecting to receive around £1.5m in costs from Modi.

Today, Cairns said: “Nearly three years ago Lalit Modi made baseless and outrageous allegations against me as a professional sportsman. He declined to withdraw them. I was fully vindicated at trial in March this year. Mr Modi’s appeal, just like his case, was doomed from the start.”