Graduate wins £15,000 in an acrimonious family dispute on Facebook
Judgment was handed down in JQL v NTP  EWHC 1349 (QB) by HHJ Lewis on 27 May 2020, following a four day trial. The woman, a graduate hoping to train and practice in law, successfully claimed that her uncle had breached her privacy rights when he revealed in a post on social media that she had received treatment with regard to her mental health and self-harming. The post was made in the course of an ongoing disagreement between the claimant, defendant and several other members of the family.
Despite the fact that approximately no more than 35 people saw the post and it was deleted after a few hours, the Court decided that an award of £15,000 was appropriate. The Court found that there had been a serious invasion of privacy and breach of confidence and that her autonomy and control over her personal and medical information could be impacted. Therefore, the award included general damages to compensate the Claimant for her distress, hurt, feelings of embarrassment and anxiety and also her loss of control and a significant amount of aggravated damages. The Judge added, “Whilst nobody should be embarrassed about their mental health difficulties, many people choose to keep them secret.” The Judge also awarded an injunction to protect the Claimant in the future, given that there was an ongoing family feud, even though the Claimant did not include a claim for an injunction on the Claim Form.
The case serves as a stark reminder as to the importance of vigilance when sharing on social media with particular concern for private and personal information. Further, the ruling has potential implications across the board. People can no longer post on public platforms without consequence when posts can potentially become actionable, much like other publications and media. This case follows the trend seen by practitioners of increases in cases and disputes resulting from social media platforms.
Thomson Heath & Associates specialise in all areas of media law, including data protection, misuse of private information, and defamation. Click here to find out more information