Case Summary: Youssoupoff v Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Limited (1934)

Case Summary

 

Citation

 

Youssoupoff v Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1934) 50 TLR 581, CA

 

Case History

 

The jury found in favour of Youssoupoff. 

 

Facts

 

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Limited produced a film in which a man named Rasputin brought about the destruction of Russia but was subsequently murdered by Prince Chegodieff and others. In the film, Princess Natasha had sexual relations with Prince Chegodieff, one the murderers of Rasputin, but was also raped by Rasputin. In real life, Princess Irina Youssoupoff was married to Prince Youssoupoff, the man who assisted in the murder of Rasputin. The film was a combination of both fiction and real life facts.  

The imputation is that Princess Irina Youssoupoff was raped by Rasputin. 

 

Issues

 

  1. Lord Justice Scrutton: '[The defendants] say there was no evidence on which a jury, properly directed, could find that reasonable people would understand the Princess Natasha of the film to be Princess Irina, the plaintiff.' (Page 582) 
     
  2. Lord Justice Scrutton: '[The defendants] say that if we are to take the Princess Natasha of the film to be identified with Princess Irina, the plaintiff, there was no evidence on which a jury, reasonably directed, could find the film to be defamatory of the plaintiff.' (Page 582)
     
  3. Lord Justice Scrutton: '[The defendants] say: "Assuming both of those points are decided against us, the damages were excessive. They were such as no jury, properly directed, could give in the cirumstances of the case."' (Page 582)

 

Ratio Decidendi

 

Principle: The imputation may be defamatory if it 'tends to make the plaintiff shunned or avoided...' 

Lord Justice Slesser stated at page 587:

...not only is a matter defamatory if it brings the plaintiff into hatred, ridicule, or contempt, by reason of some moral discredit on her part, but also if it tends to make the plaintiff shunned or avoided and without any moral discredit or her behalf.

Slesser applied the principle at page 587: 

One may, I think, take judicial notice of the fact that a lady of whom it has been said that she has been ravished, albeit against her will, has suffered in social reputation and opportunities of receiving respectful consideration of the world.

Principle: For an imputation to be defamatory, it is irrelevant whether the plaintiff was at fault or immoral.

Lord Justice Slesser stated at page 587:

I, for myself, cannot see that from the plaintiff's point of view it matters in the least whether this libel suggests that she has been seduced or ravished. The question whether she is or she is not the more or the less moral seems to me immaterial in considering this question whether she has been defamed...

 

NOTES

 

I found the original case in The Times Law Reports volume 50, 1933-1934 at the State Library of Victoria in Australia.

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