So the Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas/OK! Magazine v Hello! damages judgment is out. But if you’re scratching your heads thinking, “Why haven’t I seen this yet?”, this is because, for some reason, Mr Justice Lindsay still hasn’t handed it down and isn’t likely to for another two or three weeks.
As most earth dwellers know, the Douglases and OK! took Hello! to the High Court and won earlier this year, because Hello! printed unauthorised pictures of the couple’s 2000 wedding, which had been promised to OK! But the damages judgment is going to be a lot more exciting than the original result.
The Douglases have a ‘breach of confidence’ claim – something closely allied to the developing law of privacy – for 600,000 GBP. If they are awarded this much it will be the largest ever award for a ‘privacy’ type case and will up the financial stakes in the ongoing battle between celebrities and the media. Perhaps Judge Lindsay has turned into J Alfred Prufrock, because the impact of such a high award will be so great.
Or maybe he’s just struggling with the maths. Because there is another theory circulating among media lawyers, many of whom already know the result.
The theory goes like this: OK!, which is claiming around 1.75m GBP against Hello!, has an incredibly complex damages claim focusing on loss of sale, syndication rights and the like, resulting from Hello!’s wedding spoiler. If this was an insurance claim it would take an army of the world’s finest actuaries to assess OK!’s actual loss. Could it be that the judgment hasn’t been handed down because the parties involved are still disagreeing over the maths?
In the meantime, more and more people seem to know – in a roundabout way, at least – what the result is going to be. The draft judgment has had several weeks to leak out, after all. Most of the country’s media lawyers have already been congratulating one or both of the parties on the judgment – which we’d love to reveal here. But as a legal newspaper, we’re quite aware of the consequences, so you’ll just have to wait.
Alternatively, go and ask your local media lawyer.