Operators of a ‘Solicitors from Hell’ website have been ordered to pay £10,000 in damages after publishing claims that a City firm was rude and intimidating.
The site appears to be the latest incarnation of Solicitors from Hell, a web platform for complaints about alleged misconduct by solicitors. The original site was closed in 2011 following an action by the Law Society.
Brett Wilson LLP took the owners of the new site to court after it published the claims. A client alleged the boutique firm had overcharged for a letter and had then engaged in a ‘campaign of harassment’ when the client refused to pay, a High Court judgment said.
The allegations, which appeared between October 2014 and January 2015, caused serious harm, the firm said. An opponent in litigation cited the claims as evidence that Brett Wilson was a ‘disreputable firm’ and said at least one prospective client withdrew instructions following publication.
The operators of the site could not be identified, but in their absence the judge ruled that the claims were defamatory and had likely had a financially damaging impact ‘on a serious scale’.
Mr Justice Warby said: ‘It is beyond dispute that the words complained of had a clear tendency to put people off dealing with the claimant firm. That was their evident purpose. The allegations are serious and would be likely to deter anybody unfamiliar with the firm from engaging its services.’
He ordered the creators to pay damages of £10,000 and granted an injunction ordering the creators to remove from their site the pages containing the allegations along with any metadata or search engine links referring to the firm as a ‘solicitor from hell’.
The decision is one of the first to clarify what might constitute serious financial loss in the context of the Defamation Act 2013.