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Falsely Accused Law Firm Wins Libel Damages

Published: 26 November 2014, in categories: Personal Injury Updates | Legal Updates | News and Updates

A respected law firm which was falsely accused in a national newspaper of enriching itself at the expense of the legal aid fund and negligently letting down alleged victims of the MMR vaccine has won substantial libel damages and a public apology.

The firm was the target of an article published on the front page of the Times under the headline, ‘MMR families sue their legal aid lawyers’. The piece stated that the firm was being sued by a former client for alleged negligence and ‘unjust enrichment’ in respect of his claim relating to the MMR vaccine. That was wrong in that, although proceedings had been threatened, none had to date been instituted.

The firm categorically rejected any suggestion that it had been negligent or behaved in any way improperly. The true position was that legal aid funding had been granted to enable the firm to investigate with experts a claim for damages on behalf of a large number of children who claimed to have been injured by the vaccine.

Whilst the possibility of a link between the vaccine and autism had subsequently been widely discredited, there had been absolutely no reason to conclude that the children’s claims were hopeless on the expert evidence available at the time. The firm had immediately complained about the article; however, Times Newspapers Limited had denied liability and refused to remove it from the newspaper’s website.

After the firm launched libel proceedings, Times Newspapers accepted its error in publishing the false allegations. In open court, the company apologised unreservedly for the damage caused to the firm’s reputation and agreed to pay a substantial sum by way of damages as well as legal costs.

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