The Daily Mail has paid inventor Sir James Dyson and his wife Lady Deirdre Dyson £100,000 in libel damages after suggesting they had behaved badly towards their former housekeeper.
The couple, who topped this year’s Sunday Times Rich List with a worth of £16.2bn, said they were not motivated by money and will donate the sum, which they are match funding, to charity.
The Mail published a story in July 2019 asking readers “Which side are you on?” as it reported on a legal dispute between the Dysons and their former housekeeper.
The couple claimed the article presented the housekeeper as David standing up to them in the role of Goliath. It alleged that they had behaved oppressively by bringing High Court proceedings against the housekeeper in retaliation for her bringing an unfair dismissal claim against them.
In fact, the Dysons said the housekeeper brought her claim after they launched their “proportionate and reasonable” case against her for taking and retaining their private and confidential information without consent – therefore it could not have been retaliation.
They said this was explained to the Mail before publication but not reflected in the story.
The Dysons also noted that in November 2018 the High Court granted an order requiring the housekeeper to return the information, including medical records, and said they had helped her financially through the process.
The Dysons instructed their lawyers to complain about the article immediately after its publication on 13 July last year, but it remained live until six days later when they issued legal action. The couple were told it was a “temporary suspension”.
In a trial of preliminary issues in January this year, a High Court judge ruled the article contained factual defamatory imputations about the Dysons.
Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers tried to appeal this judgment twice but was refused permission at both the High Court and Court of Appeal.
It has now agreed to settle the case for £100,000 plus costs and a statement was read by a lawyer for the Dysons at the High Court on Thursday morning.
Rachel Atkins, of Schillings, said: “Justice has been delayed and the vindication the Claimants have always sought is long-overdue.”
The court was told the Mail had “protracted the process, but it has finally admitted the articles it wrote were false and damaging”.
It heard the Dysons had “little option” but to accept an offer of amends “even though the Daily Mail’s apology which followed was wholly inadequate in their view”.
But the Dysons felt the court statement finally gave them “effective and public vindication”.
In a statement, the couple said: “The babies and children who suffer from Epidermolysis Bullosa are born in pain and suffer terribly, day and night, for life… The money will help to fund continuing research for this little-known condition, and we have everything crossed they will eventually find a cure.”
Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville