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Rule of Law Paper/Soc 205 - Essay Example

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In June 1994, two persons named Helen Steel and Dave Morris were tried for a lawsuit filed by the McDonald’s Corporation in a case that is known as the “McLibel” Case (NICHOLSON). The McDonalds Corporation v Steel & Morris Case involved two social activists who belonged to…
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Rule of Law Paper/Soc 205
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In June 1994, two persons d Helen Steel and Dave Morris were tried for a lawsuit filed by the McDonald’s Corporation in a case that is known as the “McLibel” Case (NICHOLSON). The McDonalds Corporation v Steel & Morris Case involved two social activists who belonged to the ‘London Greenpeace’ organization who started distributing pamphlets published in 1986 entitled ‘What’s wrong with McDonald’s’ (Vidal, 1996). The pamphlets contained several claims that were damning to the McDonald’s organization such as ‘McDonald’s was destroying rainforests, causing starvation in Third World countries, producing litter in cities, causing heart disease, cancer and food poisoning’ and several other assertions too. After threats by McDonald’s of libel, three of the five activists apologized but these two activists refused and subsequently McDonald’s filed a defamation case against them which resulted in a case that became the longest in English history (McLibel: Longest case in English history, 2005).
In June of 1997, in a long judgment, Justice Rodger Bell found both defendants guilty on multiple accounts of defamation against the McDonald’s Corporation.
In English Law, lawsuits for libel are allowed to be brought in the courts for any published statement that are supposed to defame a named or identifiable individual(individuals) in a manner which causes them loss in their trade or profession, or causes a reasonable person to think worse of him, her or them.
The defenses that are allowed for libel are justification (the truth of the statement), fair comment (whether the statement was a view that a reasonable person could have held), and privilege (whether the statements were made in Parliament or in court, or whether they were fair reports of allegations in the public interest). 
As the British Law puts the burden of proof on the defendants meaning the defendants have to prove their innocence meant that the case was made out to be a ‘David vs Goliath’ one as McDonald’s huge resources against Mr. Morris and Ms. Steel, former being an unemployed postal worker while the latter being a part time bartender. However, the two defendants did get a sufficient amount of help from volunteers and they were able to present a strong case for themselves and they were able to produce a significant amount of testimonies that were damaging and embarrassing for the company. Nonetheless, the limited resources due to no legal aid provided to the defendants in the case of libel according to British Law meant that they were not able to gather enough evidence to prove they were innocent.
Steel and Morris were found liable on multiple points of the pamphlets such as that ‘McDonalds was to blame for starvation in the Third World or had used lethal poisons to destroy vast areas of Central American rainforest’ which they could not prove (McLibel: Longest case in English history, 2005). Still, the judge did find some of the assertions to be true which included McDonald’s risking the health of their employees and customers through deceptive campaigning and were also responsible for the cruelty to animals.
The final judgment was against the defendants and damages assessed were equivalent to $96,000 against the two defendants. As McDonald’s was never in it for the money, meant that the amount of $96,000 meant nothing to the company whose annual revenues were in billions of dollars worldwide. The winning of the case by McDonald’s was not considered a great victory for them as a bad perception had already been built up in the media against them due to the nature of the case with significant disparities among the two parties in terms of financial and other resources.
McLibel: Longest case in English history. (2005, February). Retrieved from BBC News:
NICHOLSON, M. A. (n.d.). MCLIBEL: A CASE STUDY IN ENGLISH DEFAMATION LAW. Wisconsin International Law Journal, 1-7.
Vidal, J. (1996, March 9). You and I against McWorld. Retrieved from The Guardian: Read More
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