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Libel Claims and Malicious falsehood

February 25, 2012

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

The Claimants Tesla Motors Ltd application to amend a previous libel and malicious falsehood claim against the BBC has failed.

We wrote about the previous time this matter came before the court on the 21st December 2011.Tesla Motors Ltd & Anor v British Broadcasting Corporation [2011] EWHC 2760 (QB)

The Claimants proposed libel claim amendment was that,

  • “there were reasonable grounds to suspect that each of the Claimants had intentionally and significantly misrepresented the range of the Roadster by claiming that it had a range of about 200 miles in that its true range on the Top Gear track was only 55 miles”.

In his judgment Mr Justice Tugendhat ruled that Tesla’s amendment was

  • “not capable of being defamatory at all, or, if it is, it is not capable of being a sufficiently serious defamatory meaning to constitute a real and substantial tort”.

also that

  • “as any reasonable motorist knows, a manufacturer’s statement about the range of a motor vehicle is always qualified by a statement as to the driving conditions under which that range may be expected. For example, one range may be given for urban driving, and another for other conditions. But such statements are rarely if ever given to the public by reference to racing on a test track”.

The application to amend was therefore dismissed.

In its claim for malicious falsehood the Claimant said the review contained deliberately false statements about the cars performance.

Mr Justice Tugendhat found,

  • “the draft amendment is so vague, and so gravely deficient in identifying the extent of the damage (if any) that is either likely to have been caused (or, now, is said actually to have been caused) by the unfavourable statements which are alleged to be false (as opposed to that caused by those unfavourable statements admitted to be true), that it is impossible to say that there is in the present case a claim that has a real prospect of success (as required by CPR Part 24) or is in respect of a real and substantial tort (as that phrase is used in Jameel).”

Both applications to amend were therefore struck out.

The case was subject to an appeal in 2013.

Updated July 2014.