Lachaux settles HuffPost claim

Statement in open court read before Warby J

Today the parties in Lachaux v AOL (UK) Ltd made a joint Statement in Open Court, bringing to an end Mr Lachaux’s long-running libel dispute with online news provider, the Huffington Post UK.

The claim, issued in January 2015, was based on an article published in 2014 containing alleged details of Mr Lachaux’s brief and acrimonious marriage to Afsana Lachaux, including an allegation he had behaved violently towards her.

AOL did not serve a Defence, but applied to the Court for an order that the question of serious harm to reputation under s.1(1) Defamation Act 2013 and its contention that the claim was a Jameel abuse be tried as preliminary issues.  Nicola Davies J ordered these issues to be tried at the same time as the issue of serious harm in Mr Lachaux’s parallel claims over similar allegations published in The Independent and the Evening Standard.

This preliminary trial was heard by Warby J in July 2015. He ruled that the Huffington Post article had caused serious harm to Mr Lachaux’s reputation, reached the same conclusion in respect of the Independent and Evening Standard articles, and rejected AOL’s case based on Jameel.

The Defendants appealed. The appeal was heard by the Court of Appeal (McFarlane, Davis and Sharp LJJ) in December 2016 and dismissed by a judgment handed down in September 2017.

Not long afterwards, AOL made Mr Lachaux an offer of amends under the Defamation Act 1996, which he accepted. AOL agreed to apologise publicly to Mr Lachaux in a Statement in Open Court and on the Huffington Post UK website, acknowledging that what it published about him in 2014 was entirely untrue, and to pay him substantial damages and his legal costs.

Meanwhile, Mr Lachaux’s claims in relation to the articles published in The Independent and the Evening Standard go on. In March 2018 the Supreme Court granted the publishers of those newspapers permission to appeal. The appeal is due to be heard in November.

Mr Lachaux was represented in the AOL case by 5RB’s Godwin Busuttil, initially with Justin Rushbrooke QC, and at the trial of serious harm and in the Court of Appeal with Adrienne Page QC, instructed by Taylor Hampton solicitors.