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News: Stocker v Stocker, Defendant given permission to appeal in Facebook libel case

On 5 April 2017, Lady Justice Arden gave Nicola Stocker permission to appeal the judgment of Mr Justice Mitting dated 3 March 2016 ([2016] EWHC 474 (QB)).

The appeal will address the important issue of responsibility for publication on social media.  Mrs Stocker engaged in a Facebook conversation with Deborah Bligh, Mr Stocker’s current partner, which was also visible to Ms Bligh’s Facebook Friends.  Mr Stocker did not sue on the “publication” to Ms Bligh; only the “publication” to the Friends.

Mr Justice Mitting found that neither Mrs Stocker nor Ms Bligh was aware that their exchange was visible to the Friends.  He nevertheless imposed liability on Mrs Stocker in relation to it on the basis that she had not proved that she had no reason to believe that the exchange would be visible to the friends.  He relied on the 1891 decision of Pullman v Hill, which involved the plaintiff’s clerk opening a letter intended only for him.

The Grounds of Appeal are available here.  The Skeleton Argument in support of the application for permission to appeal is here.

The initial decision of Lady Justice Hallett to refuse permission to appeal is here. The Appellant’s statement as to why permission should be granted notwithstanding the refusal here.

Lady Justice Arden held that there were two arguments which raised points of law that should be considered on appeal:

  1. The meaning of the words “tried to strangle” and the related allegation of “dangerous”.
  2. On republication, the issue as to whether the defendant was responsible for the republication to the Friends.

A summary of reasons of Lady Justice Arden for granting permission can be found here.

This post originally appeared on the website of David Price, Solicitors and Advocates, who are representing Mrs Stocker on the appeal.

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