Another solicitor has obtained an award of damages against the operator of the “Solicitors from Hell website, Mr Rick Kordowski. On 1 September 2010 the claimant became aware of statements on the website, running to several pages, which attacked her professional competency, advice and probity. On 5 October 2010 Ms Farrall obtained an interim injunction to restrain Mr Kordowski from publishing the words complained of (Farrall v Kordowksi  EWHC 2436 (QB)). Default judgment was subsequently entered. Ms Farrall has now had her damages for libel against Mr Kordowski assessed by a High Court judge.
The application was for summary disposal under section 8 of the Defamation Act 1996 and was heard on 28 January 2011 by Lloyd-Jones J. The judge held that the defendant, Mr Kordowski, was responsible for what he allowed to be put on the website and for what he published even if he was not the original author. The allegations were abusive and upsetting and the claimant had to discuss them with her employer. The claimant could, however, only prove publication for the period from 1 September to 30 September 2010 and the extent of publication could not be precisely known.
However, the publication had potentially very serious consequences. There were a number of aggravating factors including the fact that the allegations were malicious, the failure to verify the allegations or to give the claimant an opportunity to comment. When the defendant was notified of the defamatory character of the article he, in substance, demanded that the claimant prove the allegations to be untrue. This was a serious aggravating feature as was the attempt to pressure the claimant into paying to remove the allegations. The judge held that the libel was serious as it was was an unwarranted slur on the competency and probity of a young member of the legal profession. Damages were assessed in the sum of £10,000 – the maximum recoverable under the “summary disposal” procedure (see s.9(1)(c) of the Defamation Act 1996).
Mr Kordowski is, apparently, a self-employed graphic designer who claims to have set up “Solicitors from Hell” after falling out with his own solicitors. This is the second occasion on which an injunction against his website has been followed by an award of damages. In the case of Phillips v Kardowksi, a solicitor obtained and injunction against Mr Kardowksi (see our post here) and later obtained summary judgment and libel damages of £17,500 against him (see our post here). The figure was higher as the summary procedure was not used.
Although, as we have suggested in an earlier post, it is strongly arguable that the continuing operation of “solicitorsfromhell” website is a breach of the Data Protection Act 1998 it continues to be available on the internet and subject to regular updating.