Desmond Hudson successfully defends slander action
By Kerry Mcqueeney
Last updated at 5:30 PM on 22nd October 2011
A man who owns a website claiming to ‘name and shame’ allegedly underperforming solicitors has lost his slander action against the chief executive of Law Society – after claiming his own reputation had been damaged.
Rick Kordowski had sued Desmond Hudson over a brief exchange between Mr Hudson and Professor John Flood in which methods used by Mr Kordowski – who runs the Solicitors From Hell website – were described ‘criminal’.
The comment was made as Mr Hudson and Professor Flood were leaving the BBC studios in July this year after taking part in Radio 4′s You and Yours.
Rick Kordowski runs the Solicitors From Hell website, which ‘names and shames’ allegedly underperforming solicitors
The conversation, as posted by Prof Flood on his weblog, went: ‘As I came out of the BBC yesterday with Des Hudson, the chief executive of the Law Society, he said Rick Kordowski was a criminal. I reminded Des that the police didn’t think so. He wasn’t happy.’
Mr Hudson’s case was that he did not say Mr Kordowski was a criminal but told Prof Flood that Mr Kordowski’s methods of collecting payment to remove comments from the website amounted to criminal behaviour.
His defence to the claim at London’s High Court also included a plea of justification.
Mr Kordowski, who had originally claimed £1 million damages, then applied for summary judgment in his favour and a declaration that Mr Hudson’s statement was false and defamatory plus an apology and £10,000.
Striking out the claim as an abuse of process, Mr Justice Tugendhat said it was not a case for summary judgment as there was a conflict of evidence and it was impossible for him to say that the defence had no real prospect of success.
He added that, although the allegation of criminality was in principle very serious, the alleged wrong in the present case was of a relatively low level of seriousness.
He concluded that it would not be just to allow the case to proceed, given that the words complained of were spoken to a single person and that there was no evidence of any real or substantial harm to Mr Kordowski.
Mr Kordowski, who claims he is bankrupt, now faces a £14,000 costs bill.
It is not the first time Mr Kordowski has appeared in the press.
Last year a female solicitor who discovered defamatory postings about herself on the Solicitors From Hell website won her battle to have the allegations removed from the site.
Anna Mazzola, a solicitor with London law firm Hickman Rose, won the rare ‘interim injunction’ against Rick Kordowski, who runs the website.
Mr Justice Edwards-Stewart granted the order against Mr Kordowski in the High Court following an application by barrister Guy Vassall-Adams who represented Ms Mazzola.
Mr Vassall-Adams argued that the material about Ms Mazzola on the website – www.solicitorsfromhell.co.uk – was undoubtedly defamatory and that there were no grounds that it might be true.
Mr Kordowski had not pleaded a proper justification defence, or produced evidence to support the allegations, but had simply argued that they might be true, and there was also evidence of his intention to continue publishing the defamatory material, Mr Vassall-Adams said.
The barrister explained that Solicitors From Hell was a ‘grievance website’ which allowed members of the public to post anonymous complaints about solicitors, and he said that Mr Kordowski had published serious defamatory allegations without checking their truth or accuracy.
He added that Mr Kordowski, who represented himself in court, asked for payment from solicitors in return for removing articles from the website.
Similarly, in a another case last June, solicitor Scott Eason of Eason Law in the North East, brought a libel action against Mr Kordowski.
Mr Eason said he launched his libel action because he felt so strongly about the allegations published and could not allow them to remain on the internet.
Mr Kordowski had refused to take the allegations down without payment, Eason said, adding: ‘As a matter of principle, I refused to pay Mr Kordowski any money and he left me with no option but to issue libel proceedings against him.’
Subsequently Mr Kordowski removed the material from his website, sent Mr Eason a personal apology, and gave an undertaking not to re-publish the allegations.