Full case report
Douglas v Hello! Ltd (No.3)
Case Reference  EWHC 55 (Ch);  EMLR 601
Court Chancery Division
Judge Sir Andrew Morritt VC
Date of Judgment 27 Jan 2003
Breach of confidence - Privacy - Human Rights - ECHR, Art 8 - Striking out - Re-amendments - Fair trial
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the first and second Claimants, entered into an agreement with OK! magazine, the third Claimants, by which OK! were given exclusive rights to publish photographs of the Douglas-Zeta-Jones wedding. At the wedding and reception photography was prohibited; employees signed agreements not to take photographs and guests were searched for cameras. Shortly after the wedding the Claimants became aware that Hello! magazine, the first Defendant, was planning to publish surreptitiously taken photographs of the wedding. It was not known who had taken the photographs. The Claimants sought to have the defences of the first three Defendants struck out and to re-amend their particulars of claim. The Marquesa de Varela, the fourth Defendant, and a company she owned, the fifth Defendant, sought to have the claims against them struck out.
(1) Whether the defences of the first to third Defendants would be struck out. (2) Whether the proposed amendments to the particulars of claim would be allowed. (3) Whether the claims against the fourth and fifth Defendants would be struck out.
(1) The defences of the first to third Defendants would not be struck out. The deficiencies in the conduct of those Defendants' did not justify striking out their defences. There could still be a fair trial. (2) The amendments would be allowed. (3) The claims against the fourth and fifth Defendants had reasonable prospects of success and would not be struck out.
The hurdle to be cleared when alleging that a claim should be struck out because of the alleged misconduct of a party is a high one, and the Claimants here failed in their attempt to do so. The Defendants, however, suffered in terms of costs and damage to the credibility of their case.
Theodore Goddard for the Claimants; Charles Russell for the Defendants