UK Court Denies Trump's Data Protection Amendment in High-Profile President Donald J Trump v Orbis Business Intelligence Limited Case

Citation: [2024] EWHC 173 (KB)
Judgment on

Introduction

The case of President Donald J Trump v Orbis Business Intelligence Limited [2024] EWHC 173 (KB) revolves around alleged breaches of data protection law, specifically involving the so-called “Steele Dossier.” This high-profile litigation undertakes critical legal examinations, such as the application of the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR), the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA 2018), and, contentiously, the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA 1998), alongside the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) concerning amendments and summary judgments.

Key Facts

President Donald J. Trump brought proceedings against Orbis Business Intelligence Limited regarding the handling and dissemination of alleged inaccurate personal data contained in the Steele Dossier. The plaintiff’s primary case was grounded in the UK GDPR and the DPA 2018. Subsequently, Trump sought to amend the claim to incorporate a retrospective application under the DPA 1998 after the expiration of the relevant limitation period. The defense challenged this amendment due to the limitation expiry, and consequently, proposed the striking out of the claim and alternatively sought summary judgment, claiming that the cause of action disclosed no reasonable grounds for a claim and was an abuse of court processes.

The court’s examination hinged on several pivotal legal principles:

  1. Amendment After Limitation Period (CPR 17.1, 17.4): The court adhered to the principle that an amendment to add a new cause of action is impermissible after the expiration of the limitation period unless it arises out of the same or substantially the same facts as already in issue, applying the four-stage test from Mullaley & Co Ltd v Martlet Homes Ltd [2022].

  2. Strike Out and Summary Judgment (CPR 3.4, 24.2): The court reiterated the established principles governing strike out applications and summary judgment, as laid out in cases like Duchess of Sussex v Associated Newspapers Limited [2020] and Easyair Ltd v Opal Telecom Ltd [2009], which emphasize the non-conductance of mini-trials and the consideration of evidence that could reasonably be expected at trial.

  3. Compensation for Data Protection Breach (UK GDPR, DPA 2018): The judgement took into account the Supreme Court’s ruling in Lloyd v Google LLC [2021], determining that compensation is only available for actual damage suffered because of a contravention and not for mere control loss over personal data.

  4. Abuse of Process: Reflecting on principles from Higinbotham v Teekhungam [2018], the court scrutinized whether the proceedings aimed to attain a collateral advantage or put pressure on the Defendant beyond a rightful claim, thereby constituting an abuse of process.

Outcomes

The Amendment Application was dismissed by the court primarily due to the failure of the new cause of action under the DPA 1998 to arise from the same or substantially the same facts already in the existing claim. The key outcomes include:

  1. Refusal of Amendment Application: The court held that claiming retrospectively under the DPA 1998 failed to meet the requirements of CPR 17.4 when the limitation period had expired.

  2. Strike Out of DPA 1998 Claim: The court granted a strikeout of the DPA 1998 cause of action and related requests for compensation for reputational harm, processing up until 25 May 2018, and the entire claim for compensation and/or damages under the UK GDPR and DPA 2018 in line with CPR 3.4(2)(a).

  3. Grant of Summary Judgment: The court allowed the summary judgment for the Defendant, establishing that Trump had no real prospect of success on the issue of receiving compensation or obtaining rectification or a compliance order, as per CPR 24.2.

Conclusion

In President Donald J Trump v Orbis Business Intelligence Limited, the court’s meticulous application of Civil Procedure Rules and established case law principles led to a definitive outcome preventing the further processing of the claim. It concluded that Trump’s amendment to introduce a new claim under the DPA 1998 was time-barred and substantively different from the original claim. Further, the court determined that Trump was unlikely to succeed in obtaining the desired remedies as the remaining claims, after striking out the DPA 1998 elements, lacked substantiation of actual damage or distress within the scope of the UK GDPR and DPA 2018. The application for strike out and summary judgment was thus granted, bringing an end to the proceedings.

Related Summaries