This is a case report, not a report on a case. It is a law report, rather than a report on the law. Confused much?
The pedantry of this distinction was a matter which recently attracted the consideration of the High Court in London.
The Defendant publishes The Insurance Times – the “leading information, analysis and insight brand in UK general insurance”. It is “widely read in the insurance sector”.
Between December 2019 and January 2020, it published two articles by Katie Scott under the titles ‘Credit hire sharks circle as market reacts to excessive costs’ and ‘Rogue agent aggravates industry with trumped-up credit hire costs’.
The first Claimant, Direct Accident Management Limited, is a credit hire organisation regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The second Claimant, Bond Turner Limited, is a law firm regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Both Claimants are part of the Anexo Group and owned by Anexo Group Plc.
The Claimants considered the articles to be defamatory.
The court’s task is to determine the single natural and ordinary meaning of the words complained of, which is the meaning that the hypothetical reasonable reader would understand the words to bear.
In a preliminary ruling on the meaning of the offending articles, Mrs Justice Tipples noted that they were “not law or case reports”, rather they were “…industry publications in relation to the consequences of a legal case”.
The hypothetical reader will have knowledge of and an interest in the insurance industry, which includes the claims industry. However, the hypothetical reader will not be a lawyer or indeed a “professional or specialist” with any particular expertise or knowledge of the claims industry relating to the insurance sector.
The judge concluded that:
…there is no dispute that the first article is defamatory of [the first Claimant] at common law, and the second article is defamatory of [the first Claimant] and [the second Claimant].
The articles contained statements of fact rather than opinion.
This paragraph is a report on a case, rather than a case report. Or is it the other way around?
Either way, the contentious articles strayed beyond being case reports to impart an interpretation that could be construed as defamatory.
It is, however, simply an interlocutory decision. The Defendant has yet to be required to file a Defence. A substantive hearing will be required to determine the truth of the published allegations.