In a verdict that may set a precedent, the UK High Court ordered Indian Premier League founder Lalit Modi to pay retired New Zealand cricket player Chris Cairns £90,000 ($143,000) in damages over Modi’s 2010 tweets that were found to be libelous, Digital Spy reported. Modi also has to pay “£400,000 ($635,000) in costs,” the Associated Press added.
According to Sky News, the case was the “first ever Twitter libel case.”
As a 2010 Guardian report explained, Modi’s 2010 tweet claimed Cairns had a “record” of “match-fixing in the Indian Cricket League.” In the recent High Court ruling, the judge, Justice David Bean, determined that Modi didn’t show that his claims were true or that he has any “ground to suspect” the claims,” Digital Spy noted.
As the Telegraph explained, Justice Bean found that “Modi’s defence had relied on a string of witnesses who changed their story as well as an anti-corruption officer whose evidence was ‘partisan to the point of being unprofessional.'”
We wrote in November 2010 about accusations of libel in the UK over Twitter, including Cairns’ case. At that time, Modi defended himself against the libel claims by arguing that “no one in England had actually read” his tweets. According to the Financial Times, “the original tweet was received by a limited number of followers, estimated to be 65 people.” The Telegraph noted that the tweet was taken down “within 16 hours.”
Digital Spy noted that Modi’s tweet was also reported by ESPN’s CricInfo website, which later retracted, “apologized and paid damages” over the article. CricInfo is “the world’s leading cricket website,” and a “wholly owned subsidiary of” ESPN, according to its website.
The AP reported that Cairns said the tweeted accusation “put a strain on his marriage” and damaged his previous “achievements” in cricket.
The judge is quoted by Sky News as saying that Modi’s claims affect “the core attributes of [Cairns’] personality and, if true, entirely destroys his reputation for integrity.” He called it “as serious an allegation as anyone could make against a professional sportsman.”
Modi tweeted March 26 that he is “appealing the Judgment.”