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"McDonald's Corporation v Steel & Morris (1997)" by GPT4.0

 "McDonald's Corporation v Steel & Morris (1997)", commonly known as the "McLibel case," is a notable legal case in English law, particularly in the realm of libel and freedom of speech. This case is renowned for being the longest-running case of its kind in English history. Here's a detailed summary:


Background

- Date: 1997

- Parties: McDonald's Corporation (Plaintiff) vs. Helen Steel and David Morris (Defendants)

- Context: The case centered around a pamphlet titled "What's wrong with McDonald's?", which criticized various aspects of McDonald's operations.


Facts

- Incident: The pamphlet, distributed by London Greenpeace (not affiliated with the international Greenpeace organization), made various allegations against McDonald's, including environmental harm, poor treatment of workers, and unhealthy food.

- Lawsuit: McDonald's sued Steel and Morris (two activists involved with London Greenpeace) for libel.


Legal Proceedings

- Challenge: Steel and Morris, lacking legal representation and funds, defended themselves.

- Length of Trial: The trial lasted about two and a half years, making it the longest libel trial in English history.

- Judgment: The High Court delivered a mixed verdict in 1997. It found some of the pamphlet's allegations were libelous but also ruled that some claims about McDonald's negatively affecting the environment and the health of their employees were true.


Legacy and Importance

- Public Reaction and Impact: The case drew significant public and media attention and sparked debate about libel laws, corporate tactics, and freedom of speech.

- Outcome for McDonald's: While McDonald's won the case, the trial was seen as a public relations disaster for the company. The case highlighted the risks of large corporations taking legal action against individuals or small groups in what is perceived as an imbalance of power.

- Impact on Libel Law and Activism: The case is often cited in discussions about the UK's libel laws and the ability of individuals or small groups to speak out against large corporations.


"McDonald's Corporation v Steel & Morris" stands out as a seminal case that highlights complex issues surrounding corporate reputation, freedom of speech, and the use of libel laws. Despite winning the case, McDonald's faced criticism and public backlash, illustrating the potential consequences of legal actions for corporations beyond the courtroom.



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