9. The McLibel Case
Photo credit: BBC
Helen Steel, David Morris, and several accomplices released a McDonald’s fact sheet around London that was deeply negative in tone. In 1990, McDonald’s launched a lawsuit against them, claiming that the document was libelous.
It can be very time-consuming and expensive to defend against a defamation lawsuit in England. Perhaps with this in mind, Steel and Morris’s accomplices decided to take McDonald’s up on their offer to drop the charges under the condition that the accomplices apologize. On the other hand, Steel and Morris flatly refused.
The resulting legal trial became the subject of much media attention, being aggrandized as a modern David versus Goliath clash. It cost the duo nearly £30,000 in legal fees. McDonald’s spent tens of millions.
Ultimately, the judge ruled in favor of McDonald’s. Steel and Morris were ordered to pay £60,000 in damages, which was later reduced to £40,000 by the Court of Appeal.
Steel and Morris then filed a case with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), criticizing the UK government’s practices for libel cases. The ECHR awarded the duo £57,000 in compensation, to be paid by the government.