Damages


Loss from unlawful governmental action: the counterfactual?

11 March 2020 by

Vodafone et al v. Ofcom [2020] EWCA Civ 183

Ofcom make some unlawful regulations in 2015, under which telecom companies have to pay higher fees. The regulations were quashed in 2017. Four telecom companies want restitutionary damages, being the difference between the sums paid under the 2015 regulations and the sums they would have paid under their predecessors, the 2011 regulations.

Big money washing around: the claim was for over £200m.

Ofcom says – no, you are only entitled to the difference between the 2015 payments and the hypothetical fees which we could lawfully have charged had we done our job properly in 2017.

Sounds quite simple, but the answer goes deep into the intersection between public and private law.

The claim, as I have said, was restitutionary.

Ofcom said that the law of restitution is rooted in the private law of obligations. The private law approach (as with any tort claim) is to apply a “but for” test – what would the telecoms have paid but for the unlawfulness? This involves the counterfactual: what lawful fees could Ofcom have imposed?

The telecoms, and the Court of Appeal, disagreed. Ofcom’s argument offended the principles of legality, and parity (the principle that those who pay voluntarily should not be worse off compared to those who refuse to pay and litigate).


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The Lord Advocate – no longer immune from suit

19 November 2019 by

Whitehouse and Clark v The Chief Constable, Police Scotland and The Lord Advocate [2019] CSIH 52

In an appeal brought by the former joint administrators of Rangers Football Club, the Inner House of the Court of Session ruled that the Lord Advocate does not have absolute immunity from suit for malicious prosecution. It marks a significant change in an area of the law that has remained largely untouched for almost sixty years.

Background

The serious financial troubles and subsequent winding up and sale of Rangers Football Club is well documented.

The two pursuers in this case were appointed as the joint administrators of Rangers when the club entered administration in 2012. They reported to the police that the acquisition of Rangers may have involved illegal financial assistance. The police then investigated the acquisition and financial management of Rangers. Whitehouse and Clark ceased to be the administrators later in 2012 when the club entered liquidation after an agreement with the club’s creditors couldn’t be reached. New joint liquidators were then appointed.

In November 2014, the pursuers were detained by Police Scotland on suspicion of being involved in a “fraudulent scheme and attempt to pervert the course of justice”. It was alleged that Craig Whyte, who became the club’s majority shareholder in 2011, had fraudulently bought the club and forced it into administration, which had financially benefitted the pursuers. Over the next year, there were a series of hearings and court proceedings. The pursuers were detained once again and re-arrested and charged with similar offences. They were then charged on a separate occasion with “conspiracy to defraud and attempting to pervert the course of justice”. They objected to the relevancy of these charges.

Whitehouse and Clark aver that they were then told by the Crown in June 2016 that all proceeding against them were finished, and they have not been charged with any offences since.


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Browser Generated Information: “loss of control” entitles search engine users to compensation

4 October 2019 by

Richard Lloyd v. Google LLC [2019] EWCA Civ 1599

The Court of Appeal has ruled that a claimant can recover damages for loss of control of their data under section 13 of Data Protection Act 1998 without proving pecuniary loss or distress. The first instance judge, Warby J, had dismissed Mr Lloyd’s application for permission to serve Google outside the jurisdiction in the USA, so preventing the claim getting under way.

The following paragraphs are based on the Court of Appeal’s own summary of the judgment.

The central question was whether the claimant, Mr Richard Lloyd, who is a champion of consumer protection, should be permitted to bring a representative action against Google LLC, the defendant, a corporation based in Delaware in the USA. Mr Lloyd made the claim on behalf of a class of more than 4 million Apple iPhone users. He alleged that Google secretly tracked some of their internet activity, for commercial purposes, between 9th August 2011 and 15th February 2012.


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Does “damage” go wider than injury? Supreme Court on jurisdiction

23 December 2017 by

Four Seasons Holdings v. Brownlie [2017] UKSC 80, 19 December 2017, read judgment

Professor Ian Brownlie Q.C., an eminent international lawyer, and members of his family were killed in a road accident in Egypt, when on their way to Al-Fayoum. His widow, also injured, had booked the driver through their hotel, the Four Seasons in Cairo.

The family wished to bring proceedings in the UK against the hotel in respect of the driver. However, the key defendant (Holdings) was incorporated in British Columbia, and the issue which got to the Supreme Court was the issue of jurisdiction.

The family said that there was a contract for the trip with Holdings, and further that Holdings were vicariously liable in tort for the negligence of the driver. Holdings had been less than transparent at earlier stages of the proceedings, but, after the Supreme Court required it to give a full account of itself, it emerged that it was as the name suggested – a non-trading holding company which had never operated the Cairo hotel, even though other companies in the group were involved with the hotel.

On that ground, Holdings’ appeal was allowed. The unanimous Court concluded that there was no claim in either contract or in tort. In simple terms, Holdings was nothing to do with the booking of the driver by the hotel.

But the lasting interest in the case lay in the question of whether you can establish qualifying “damage” in tort in the UK even if you are injured abroad, and on this the Court was split 3-2.

Let me set the scene for this, before telling you the result.


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More vaccine litigation

9 February 2017 by

swine_flu_vaccine313John (A Minor: Vaccine Damage Payments scheme), Re [2017] EWCA Civ – read judgment

As commentators to my previous post on immunisation have pointed out, vaccinations are not cost-free. But the benefit of eliminating pathogens through herd immunity is generally agreed to outweigh the occasional risk to individuals. Acknowledging that there are such risks,  the government has run a modern compensation system since 1979 for people who are “severely disabled” as a result of vaccination (now the 2012 Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme). The initial scheme was put in place in response to side effects of the whooping cough vaccine.

The question before the Court of Appeal in the present case was whether the determination of the severity of a person’s disablement could take account of prognosis. If an individual has been assessed as having a lifelong condition, is the state obliged to compensate them for future disabilities?

Yes, said the Court of Appeal: this is not speculation, our legal system is used to it. It is the “very stuff” of personal injury litigation.

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High Court calls for change in bereavement law to benefit cohabitees

21 September 2016 by

1152277_90340870Smith v Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and another [2016] EWHC 2208 (QB) – read judgment

Under the Fatal Accidents Act 1976 those who live together but are not married are not entitled to damages for bereavement. The High Court has found that though this did not directly engage the right to family life and privacy under Article 8, the difference in treatment between cohabitees and those who were married or in a civil partnership could not be justified and consideration should be given to reforming the law.

The issues before the Court

The claimant had cohabited with a man for over two years before he had died as a result of the first and second defendants’ negligence. She had made a dependency claim under s.1 of the 1976 Act, which by a 1982 amendment had been extended to people who had been cohabiting for more than two years, but the bereavement damages provisions in s.1A(2)(a) still applies only to spouses and civil partners.
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How to sue in respect of abusive comments on the Internet

25 March 2015 by

Internet-TrollThe Bussey Law Firm PC & Anor v Page [2015] EWHC 563 (QB) – read judgment

The facts of this case are simple. A defamatory comment was posted on the claimant’s Google maps directional page, implying that he was a “loser” as a lawyer and that his firm lost “80%” of cases brought to them. The defendant claimed that someone must have hacked in to his own Google account to put up the post.

There were jurisdictional complications in that the firm is situated in Colarado but these need not concern us here as Sir David Eady, sitting as a High Court judge, allowed the trial to go ahead in England. The real question was  why any third party would have gone to the trouble of hacking into the defendant’s Google account in order to post the offending review; if the objective were merely to hide the hacker’s identity from the claimants, there would be the simpler option of setting up an anonymous Google account. This would in itself render the would-be publisher untraceable, and especially if it were done from a public computer.
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“Lamentable”, “egregious” and “wholly indefensible”: High Court lambasts local authority’s conduct of care proceedings

1 February 2015 by

imgres-1Northamptonshire County Council v AS, KS and DS [2015] EWFC 7 – read judgment

A Family Division judge has awarded damages under the Human Rights Act against a local authority in what he described as an “unfortunate and woeful case” involving a baby taken into foster care. Mr Justice Keehan cited a “catalogue of errors, omissions, delays and serial breaches of court orders” by Northamptonshire County Council. Unusually, the judge decided to give the judgment in this sensitive case in public in order to set out “the lamentable conduct of this litigation by the local authority.

On 30 January 2013, the local authority placed the child (known as ‘DS’) with foster carers. He was just fifteen days old. In the weeks prior to DS’s birth, his mother’s GP had made a referral to the local authority due to her lack of antenatal care and because she claimed to be sleeping on the street. The mother then told a midwife that she had a new partner. He was a heroin addict.

After the birth DS’s mother avoided seeing her midwife. She frequently moved addresses and conditions at home were exceedingly poor. Three days before DS was taken into care, his mother told social workers that her new partner was being aggressive and threatening to her. She reported that he was leaving used needles around the house.
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Why Somali pirates got damages from Strasbourg

9 December 2014 by

disaster2008_Ponant14Ali Samatar and others v. France, 4 December 2014, ECtHR, Fifth Section, read judgment 

There is a good deal of froth about this case in the media, with little of it looking at what our pirates got their damages for. I also suspect that some of the hostility comes from elements who may not wish to trouble themselves with a judgment only in French. So let’s have a quick look at what the case was actually about. 

The surrounding facts are terrifying but France’s liability to pay damages occurred for mundane reasons, as we shall see.

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Supreme Court revises confiscation order via A1P1

18 June 2014 by

_41773060_mtic_carousel416x302R v Ahmad and others [2014] UKSC 36, 18 June 2014 – read judgment

A bit of a familiar refrain in which A1P1, the right to property, comes in and stops an order being made which would otherwise be lawful under statute: see my recent post here on the Eastenders case.

The case concerns confiscation proceedings following the conviction of two sets of defendants for carousel fraud.  A carousel fraud involves setting up a whole series of paper transactions to generate an apparent entitlement to reclaim VAT from the tax man: see the pic for an example. The VAT is repaid, at which point the money, and the fraudsters, disappear into the dust. But in these cases, they were found, prosecuted and confiscation orders made against the individuals to try and get the money back.

In the first case, the Ahmad defendants ran a company MST, and took £12.6m (£16.1m uprated for inflation) off the taxman. In the second, the Fields defendants got £1.6m (including inflation) via their company, MDL.

In each case, the order was made in those sums against each individual defendant. So each Ahmad defendant was ordered to pay £16.1m, even if some of that £16.1m was thereafter repaid by another defendant. It was this element of the order which the Supreme Court revised.

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Eastenders in Supreme Court: A1P1 filling in the gaps

15 May 2014 by


EastEnders_TitleBarnes v. The Eastenders Group [2014] UKSC 26 read judgment

Not Albert Square, but it could be. The Crown Prosecution Service suspect two individuals of a massive duty/VAT fraud in their cash and carry businesses. The CPS go to the Crown Court (in the absence of the individuals) and get an order to appoint a receiver (i.e. a paid manager) to run the affairs of companies (Eastenders) in which the individuals are involved, as well as a restraint order against the individuals. Both receivership and restraint orders are set aside some months later by the Court of Appeal, on the basis that the HMRC investigator’s statements were largely “broad and unsupported assertions”. Problem: by then the receiver had run up £772,547 in fees.

Simple issue. Who bears those fees? The receiver, the CPS or the companies against whom the order was made? And A1P1 (the right to possessions) made the difference.

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Public and private law wrongs are not the same – Court of Appeal

15 April 2014 by

110618346_Vincent_398959c Tchenguiz v. Director of the Serious Fraud Office [2014] EWCA Civ 472, 15 April 2014 – read judgment

This judgment is a neat illustration of how important it is to keep the concepts of public law and private law unlawfulness separate – they do not necessarily have the same legal consequences.

It arose thus. The Tchenguiz brothers are high-profile businessmen, and they did not take kindly to being arrested and bailed on charges of fraud at the behest of the SFO. They sought judicial review of the search and arrest warrants. In due course, the Divisional Court ([2012] EWHC 2254 (Admin)) held that the SFO had made material non-disclosure and factual misrepresentations to the judge which vitiated the grant of the warrants, and the brothers have brought a substantial follow-on claim for damages – £300 million according to another recent judgement here.

So the Tchenguiz brothers have established unlawfulness, but, as we shall see, this does not automatically entitles them to damages.

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Rendition to Libya an “act of state” and therefore non-justiciable

14 January 2014 by

gaddafi_2036309cBelhaj and another v Straw and Others [2013] EWHC 4111 (QB) 20 December 2013 – read judgment

Peter Skelton of 1 Crown Office Row acted for the defendants in this case. He has nothing to do with the writing of this post.

The High Court has struck out claims against British establishment defendants for “unlawful rendition”.  The doctrine of immunity attaching to an act of state is  total bar to that such claims and is not limited by the gravity of the alleged violation of rights.

Factual background

The first claimant, an opponent of the Gaddafi regime, and his wife, the second claimant, had been apprehended in Bangkok in 2004 whilst trying to travel from Beijing to the UK to claim asylum. They were held in a detention centre in Kuala Lumpur for two weeks and whilst they were there the UK authorities, along with the US, the Malaysians and the Chinese, worked together to secure their extradition to Libya (this was a time when friendly relations were maintained between the UK and the Libyan government).   After another journey to Bangkok, where they were detained in a US “black site”, they were flown to Tripoli  and transported to Tajoura prison, a detention facility operated by the Libyan intelligence services. The second claimant was released later in 2004, but the first claimant was transferred to another prison and held until 2010.
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“Imprecise” injunctions against Facebook unenforceable, says NI judge

3 December 2013 by

Facebook-from-the-GuardianJ19 and Another v Facebook Ireland [2013] NIQB 113 – read judgment

The High Court in Northern Ireland has chosen to depart from the “robust” Strasbourg approach to service providers and their liability for comments hosted on their sites. Such liability, said the judge, was not consonant with the EC Directive on E-Commerce.

This was an application on behalf of the defendant to vary and discharge orders of injunction dated 27 September 2013 made in the case of both plaintiffs. One of the injunctions  restrained “the defendant from placing on its website photographs of the plaintiff, his name, address or any like personal details until further order.” These interim injunctions were awarded pursuant to writs issued by the plaintiffs for damages by reason of  the publication of photographs, information and comments on the Facebook webpages entitled “Irish Blessings”, “Ardoyne under Siege” and “Irish Banter” on 11 September 2013 and on subsequent dates.
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The “uneasy” co-existence of public interest immunity and closed material procedure

7 November 2013 by

blind justiceCF v Security Service and others and Mohamed v Foreign and Commonwealth Office and others [[2013] EWHC 3402 (QB) – read judgment

The High Court has today made the first court ruling on the use of the Justice and Security Act 2013 in a civil claim for damages.

In a ruling on preliminary issues, Irwin J made a declaration that the government can make a closed material application to the court in this case. The Court also ruled on PII. The following summary is based on the Court’s press release.

Factual background

CF and Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed are both British citizens of Somali descent. CF left the United Kingdom in 2009, Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed having left in 2007. They were both detained by the Somaliland Authorities on 14 January 2011. They were then detained until removal to the UK on 14 March 2011. Each claims that they were unlawfully detained, tortured and mistreated during the period of detention in Somaliland.
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