A litigant in person who is trying to sue web giant Google in the High Court has successfully concealed his identity from court staff and the defendant - as well as the judge - for more than nine months, it has emerged.
The claimant, known only as ABC, represented himself in the Queen’s Bench Division before media list judge Mr Justice Nicklin. The claim alleges defamation, malicious falsehood and breach of confidence connected to a Google-owned website on which objectionable posts were allegedly made.
Opening the hearing, Mr Justice Nicklin said that the claimant had received generous treatment as a litigant in person - but that the court’s patience was running out. 'I make allowances for the fact you are a litigant in person so that’s why I’m saying this to you: orders of the court are not matters that you are free to decide when and if you will comply with them.’
He added: ’This is the first case I’ve encountered where I’ve not known the identity of a litigant I’m speaking to. It’s a remarkable state of affairs that you’ve managed to get to August without complying with an order of the court.’ He was referring to an order made by Master Yoxall at a hearing in December last year that the claimant identify himself.
ABC, a middle-aged man in a mis-matched suit, said: ’This is not about disobedience. As your lordship is well aware, especially as a judge in this area, this is … a complex area. Unless the court, in the round, understands all the circumstances of the case as to the background, as to any risk, that, actually, of undermining the order, obviously that will defeat the object.’
Nicklin responded: ’I want to give you one final opportunity to explain to me. The order that I’m minded to make is that you’ve got seven days to give the defendants your name as was directed by the court back on 4th December. If you fail to do that I’m going to strike your action out.’
ABC then offered to identify himself in exchange for binding commitments on Google, prompting the response: ’No. Listen. I’m not going to bargain with a litigant who’s in default of an order about the terms on which he complies with a court order. It’s not going to be done on the basis of ‘“you demand, I provide’” You [demand] remedies against a defendant who doesn’t even know who you are.’
The judge ordered the case to be struck out unless ABC identifies himself within seven days. He gave summary approval of Google’s costs.