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Berezovsky v Michaels 2000 Tort Law

Berezovsky v Michaels 2000

Berezovsky v Michaels [2000] UKHL 25, [2000] 2 All ER 986, [2000] 1 WLR 1004 is an English libel case in which the House of Lords allowed Boris Berezovsky and Nikolai Glushkov to sue Forbes (via editor James Michaels) for libel in UK courts, despite the allegedly libellous material relating to their activities in Russia.

In this case, Berezovsky, a Russian businessman, who brought a libel claim against Michaels, a Forbes journalist, who had published an article in the 30 December 1996 edition of Forbes magazine describing Berezovsky as "criminals on an outrageous scale".

At first instance, it was held that where a party was not subject to a jurisdiction, it was for the court to determine the appropriate forum (citing Spiliada Maritime Corp v Cansulex Ltd [1987] AC 460). It was found that the plaintiffs' connection with England was "tenuous" and stayed the proceedings.

After the plaintiffs provided further evidence of their connection with England on appeal, the Court of Appeal overturned the decision, and held that, per the Spiliada test, as there was strong evidence of the plaintiffs' connection with England, England was a suitable forum for the trial. It was eventually held that the article was defamatory and that Berezovsky had been seriously harmed by its publication.

The House of Lords upheld the Court of Appeal's decision by a 3-2 majority, dismissing the appeals, and finding that on the additional evidence provided England was an appropriate forum and the trial of actions should proceed in England.

The case established that an individual can sue for defamation in the English courts even if the allegedly defamatory material was published outside of the UK. The case also illustrates the importance of protecting an individual's reputation from false and damaging statements, and the potential consequences of making such statements without sufficient evidence to support them.

You can learn more about this topic and other case law with our Tort Law notes.

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