DPSA has successfully defended former Tower Hamlets Mayor, Soyful Alom, in a libel and harassment claim brought against him and his son by Eric Jafari and Tariq Usmani, and their respective companies Bridgepoint Ventures and Henley Homes plc. The businessmen had complained that, following a business dispute, Mr Alom’s son had published a number of items on the website Ripoff Report under the pseudonym James Marson, which were defamatory of their business practices. Mr Alom was alleged to have authorised his son to do so. Mr Alom and his son both denied any responsibility for the publication.
At the start of the claim, the Claimants sought an interim injunction from Mr Justice Tugendhat. In response, Mr Alom gave a voluntary undertaking, without admission of liability. The Judge accepted the undertaking on the basis that where a defendant merely denies publication, the rule in Bonnard v Perryman (which restricts interim injunctions in defamation claims) does not apply.
On 19 December 2013, Sir David Eady gave permission to Mr Alom to amend his Defence to allege that evidence relied on by the Claimants for the interim injunction had been fabricated (which was denied by the Claimants). On 20 January 2014 the Claimants obtained a default judgment against Mr Alom’s son. The trial in relation to the claim against Mr Alom was due to start next month.
On 6 March 2014 Mr Justice Mitting gave permission to the Claimants to discontinue their claim against Mr Alom and released him from the undertaking. The Claimants are now liable to pay Mr Alom’s legal costs and the Judge ordered a payment on account of£80,000.
Cases involving denials of responsibility for website publications are becoming increasingly common. This case illustrates that Claimants should be wary before joining additional defendants who are not alleged to have authored the publication.
Relevant documents from the claim can be found here: