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Novel claim asserting a duty to protect reputation is struck out: Piepenbrock v LSE [2022] EWHC 2421

News | Wed 5th Oct, 2022

Laura Johnson KC, instructed on behalf of the London School of Economics and Political Science (“LSE”) and seven other associated defendants, has succeeded in an application to strike out a seven figure claim brought by a former teaching fellow of LSE.  Dr Piepenbrock brought a claim for occupational stress against the LSE that culminated in a High Court trial in 2018.  Andrew Warnock KC and Laura Johnson KC acted for the LSE in that trial, successfully defending a £4.5m claim arising out of the LSE’s handling of a complaint about Dr Piepenbrock.  The trial attracted press reports published in the Daily Mail in October 2018. 

In 2019, Dr Piepenbrock brought a claim for defamation against the Daily Mail’s publisher, Associated News Limited (“ANL”) and the LSE.  He alleged that the LSE was legally responsible for the words of an anonymous source quoted in the article.  He failed to serve proceedings in time and as a result that claim was not allowed to proceed.  A costs order was made in favour of ANL and LSE in those proceedings that has not been paid.

In 2022, Dr Piepenbrock brought further proceedings against the LSE and ANL arising out of the publication of the articles, claiming compensation for personal injury caused by the damage to his reputation, breach of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 (“PHA”), discrimination pursuant to the Equality Act 2010 (“EQA”), violation of the Human Rights Act 1998 (“HRA”) and various data protection breaches.  Both the LSE and ANL applied to strike out the claims.  After a three day hearing Heather Williams J handed down judgment on 30 September 2022.  The claims in negligence, under the PHA, the EQA and the HRA were struck out, in addition to a number of the data protection claims.  The claims in negligence, under the EQA and the HRA were certified as being wholly without merit.  The only outstanding aspect of the claim relates to three subject access requests (SARs) made by the claimant in 2019, 2020 and 2021. 

The judge concluded that she was unable to determine whether or not an arguable claim could exist in relation to this very limited aspect of the data protection claim because the pleading was not coherent.  This remaining part of the claim has been stayed pending payment of the outstanding costs of the 2020 claim.  Laura was assisted in the case by Henk Soede and instructed by DAC Beachcroft LLP. 

The judgement can be found here.

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