Top Gear Malicious Falsehood Claim

Tesla Motors Ltd & Anor v British Broadcasting Corporation [2011] EWHC 2760 (QB)

The High Court has struck out the claim for Malicious Falsehood by the American company Tesla against Top Gear the BBC show. Mr Justice Tugendhat said that no Top Gear viewer would have reasonably compared the cars performance on the shows airfield track to its likely performance on a public road.

The car company had complained that Top Gear had staged footage so as to create an impression that the car had run out of battery.  They also complained that Top Gear had characterised a blown fuse as a brake failure, and that the model had become immobile as a result of over heating.

The presenter had said in the programme that the roadster had run out of battery after 55 miles on its track, far short of the 200 miles that Tesla claimed that it could achieve.

Mr Justice Tugendhat further stated:

  • “This is because there is a contrast between the style of driving and the nature of track as compared to conditions on a public road …. are so great, no reasonable person could understand that the performance on the Top Gear track is capable of direct comparison with a public road.”

The Judge reserved his judgment on malicious falsehood and he has now given that judgment and the company will lose its claim for malicious falsehood, unless it can show that it suffered financial damage from the episode.

The court highlighted that for malicious falsehood to apply, Tesla must show special damage had followed as a direct result of the publication. In this case the claimant made no ­submissions on actual ­damages.

Mr Justice Tugendhat said “I shall strike out the claim in this action unless the plea of damages is amended by agreement between the parties or with the permission of the Court.”

The matter came back before the court on the 10th February 2012 and was reported on the 23rd February.

Tesla Motors Ltd & Anor v British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) [2012] EWHC 310 (QB)

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