Court of Appeal allows Times innuendo claim to continue

The wife of the former Mayor of Moscow has won an appeal allowing her to continue with a libel action against The Times.

Elena Baturina, the wife of former Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhko, is suing over a story that appeared on September 27, 2009, alleging she bought a north London mansion for £50m through an offshore company and planned to spend a further £50m on renovations.

Baturina says she has not bought the property, and claims that the story is defamatory because of a Russian law that requires public officials to declare details of their assets, which have to be published on public websites.

Soon after publishing the story, The Times accepted that that was incorrect, published a correction, and removed the online article.

Baturina alleges that some readers who knew that she had not declared the property, among her assets would understand the story to mean that she had broken Russian law.

The Court of Appeal granted Baturina’s claim to continue her claim ‘in respect of specific categories of reader’but ordered that she should identify specific individuals who had inferred the innuendo she claimed was borne by the allegedly defamatory statements.

Baturina claims the newspaper’s article was published to four classes of reader – its readers in England, those in Russia, readers of the online article, and those who saw the foreseeable re-publications in Russia.

At an earlier High Court hearing Justice Eady allowed the claim to go ahead in respect of Russian readers of the newspaper, and those who saw the re-publications, holding that it could not be said that no-one in those categories would have inferred the alleged innuendo.

But he struck out the claim in respect of the other two categories.

In the Court of Appeal, The Times argued before the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, Lord Justice Sedley and Lord Justice Hooper, that a defendant could not be liable in defamation where that was based on an innuendo which he had not appreciated, and could not reasonably have been expected to appreciate at the time of the statement.

It also argued that if the claim was to proceed Baturina should have to identify specific individuals who had inferred the innuendo.

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