Twitter libel – Courtney Love succeeds in ‘Twibel’ trial

Phil Gorski

Phil Gorski

After a case which bore all the hallmarks of US litigation, Courtney Love, the often-outspoken singer and wife of the late Kurt Cobain, successfully defended a libel claim brought against her by her former lawyer.  The claim was for damages in the region of $8million, it lasted for almost two weeks and attracted nationwide interest.

The case was notable because it was the first time a claim based on a statement made on Twitter had reached the court in the US.  Love had alleged that her former lawyer had been bought off when she stopped acting for her in litigation which was planned against the estate of her former husband.

US law is very different to English law when it comes to defamation and it likely that Ms Love would have found defending the claim in this country a lot more difficult.  In the US case, the jury found that the statement was false and that it would have caused damage to the lawyer’s reputation.  However, they also held that Love neither knew that the statement was false nor doubted its truth when she made it (a factor which would have been largely irrelevant in an English trial) and as a result the claim failed.

Twitter users in the UK cannot rest easy – as the recent case brought by Lord McAlpine against Sally Bercow showed, English law quickly accepted that tweets could be defamatory and the ease with which a tweet can be posted to a very large audience means that it’s all too simple to make a very expensive mistake.

Phil Gorski
Commercial Dispute Resolution Department
0113 2279 318

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