Max Mosley has gone ahead with his threat to sue the News of the World for libel – after already winning a High Court privacy action against the tabloid last year.
Mosley issued a writ against publishers News Group Newspapers on March 31, and is believed to be seeking libel damages over the story which claimed he took part in a “sick Nazi orgy”.
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Mosley has told the Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee he planned to use a no-win no-fee arrangement, which would mean the newspaper facing much higher legal costs if he wins.
Under a Confidential Fee Agreement, Mosley’s lawyers would able to charge double their normal fees as a victory bonus.
Press Gazette’s Media Law conference in February heard British libel law costs are now the highest in Europe, and that the typical cost to a publisher of losing a major libel action brought under a CFA at trial is now around £2.4m.
Mosley’s latest legal action has been assigned to procedural judge Master Eyre, who will hear initial stages of the claim, and decide how the claim should go ahead. No date has yet been set for a hearing, and no court documents are currently available.
Mosley claims his life had been “devastated” by the News of the World story, and by footage of his sexual activities with five prostitutes posted on the paper’s website.
Trial judge Mr Justice Eady awarded £60,000 damages to Mosley for breach of privacy and ordered that the News of the World pay his legal costs, estimated at £450,000, as well as its own costs, expected to reach £400,000.
After Mosley’s evidence to MPs last week, the News of the World said: “We believe the impact of our experience and our way forward following the Max Mosley legal ruling have helped define the nature of modern tabloid reporting in Britain.
“Its significance is not that we lost the ensuing court case, but that we were prepared to fight for our readers’ right to be told what Mosley, the elected president of a body with 125 million members was doing.”
Mosley had told MPs that, if he decided not to stand for re-election as FIA president this summer, and had spare time, he would “relish” the opportunity to sue the paper.
“I think it would be difficult to sue for libel for the first edition which was about the Nazi allegation. The court might feel that I was overdoing it,” he said.
“Where I could sue for libel was the second edition. They gave me five pages in the second Sunday saying I was a liar.
“That clearly is defamatory and the question arises about whether to sue them for that.
“That is under consideration. I will make my mind up definitely by the end of July.”
He added: “There might be a perception that I was overdoing it. It would seem almost as if I was money-grabbing.”