Man ordered to pay £25,000 in damages after posting libellous Trustpilot review

Feedback that described Summerfield Browne as ‘scam solicitors’ was defamatory, London’s High Court rules

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A man has been ordered to pay £25,000 ($34,312) in damages after publishing a libellous review of solicitors' firm Summerfield Browne.
Phillip James Waymouth posted negative feedback on Trustpilot, describing the firm as a "scam solicitor" and a "total waste of money". His complaint stemmed from unhappiness at legal advice he had received in 2019 about a legal matter.

Summerfield Browne issued court action against Mr Waymouth after reading the post, stating that it was untrue and defamatory.

The firm said the number of business enquiries it received had fallen, dropping from about 60 per week to 40. This, they claimed, showed the review had a deleterious effect on its reputation.

The court also heard that he had offered to delete the review in exchange for a £200 refund for the legal advice he had received.

A judge ruled in favour of the law firm in his verdict on the case at London's High Court. AP
A judge ruled in favour of the law firm in his verdict on the case at London's High Court. AP

In a ruling at London's High Court, a judge sided with the law firm and agreed that the post had unfairly harmed its reputation. He ordered Mr Waymouth to pay £25,000 in damages that had been sought by the plaintiff.

Mr Waymouth had not engaged with Summerfield Browne's complaints department before posting the review, the court heard. He also did not attend the court proceedings at the High Court and did not send a legal representative.

Judge Master David Cook said it was "beyond any dispute" the words in the review "had a clear tendency to put people off dealing with the claimant firm".

“It is difficult to conclude that the defendant had any other purpose in mind when posting his review,” he added. In addition, Mr Waymouth had "never fully articulated" why he was unhappy with Summerfield Browne's work, the judge said.

Judge Cook said it was “not in the public interest for misleading and inaccurate information of this kind to be published on a consumer review web site”.

He ordered that Trustpilot take down the offending post due to the defendant’s lack of co-operation, and granted an injunction preventing Mr Waymouth from posting a similar review in the future.

Since the ruling, Summerfield Browne has received dozens of negative reviews on Trustpilot.