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Published 4 July 2019
The Supreme Court has handed down its long awaited decision in Lachaux v Independent Print Ltd  UKSC 27. It has concluded that the test under section 1 of the Defamation Act 2013 is not whether the statement has an inherent tendency to cause serious harm, but what the actual impact is on the claimant’s reputation and whether that impact is serious.
Lachaux is a welcome clarification of the “serious harm” threshold and how the question of seriousness is to be considered by the courts. The courts will be expected to pay close attention to the evidence in support of the allegation that a statement has caused or is likely to cause serious harm to a person’s reputation. In practice, the Act has raised the bar for claimants wanting to bring a claim in defamation.
For individuals, this means that witness statements, estimated statistics of online users and the readership/reach of a publication are important examples of evidence that may be required when a party is seeking to prove that it has suffered serious harm from statements published online and on social media. Likewise, businesses will be expected to produce financial results, or anticipated financial results, which may well involve expert evidence at an early stage to support their defamation claims.
Claimants should always remember that there is a limitation period of one year to bring an action for defamation. Even if claimants have not sustained their losses immediately or within that year, they can claim for losses they anticipate they will suffer in the future.
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