If you do not address a defamation claim properly, however it is made, you could find that a formal court claim has been issued against you, without further notice, and that you have missed a critical opportunity to settle the dispute informally.
That said, a rushed ‘knee-jerk’ response should also be avoided. A properly considered response strategy has considerable advantages.
Whether or not the claim is made under the Protocol, we recommend that you respond, as a minimum, in line with the guidance in the Protocol.
Under the Protocol you should respond as soon as possible, normally within 14 days, so you should seek legal advice without delay.
At Cripps we have a lot of experience advising clients facing defamation claims.
How Cripps can help:
- objective analysis of the facts of the claim, applying the law of defamation (for example, whether the claim satisfies the ‘serious harm’ requirement), to give you a realistic assessment of the strength of the claim;
- if the claim has not been made under the Protocol (e.g. is in a social media comment/post,) we can advise on what can be done to have the claim taken down (if possible) and any other remedies you may have against the author if the way in which the claim has been raised is itself defamatory;
- advise on any defences which may be available to you, such as limitation (whether the other side is in time to bring their claim); honest opinion (how you can rely on this) and truth (what evidence you will need to support this – as defendant, you have to prove that your statement was not false, and therefore not defamatory);
- draft an appropriate response to rebut the claim, following the Protocol where appropriate;
- provide practical, strategic advice on Alternative Dispute Resolution (settlement outside of court) and draft appropriate settlement offers (defamation claims are expensive to defend to trial and many are settled out of court without any admission of guilt); and
- if there is no real defence and we recommend that you admit the claim , we can advise on drafting an ‘Offer of Amends’, making an apology and early admission. A claimant who accepts an Offer of Amends cannot then bring or continue with a defamation claim, so this can be a powerful weapon for a defendant when responding to a claim.