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Open University law student fails in bid to sue six classmates over ‘defamatory’ forum comments

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Samantha Exley handed £8,000 costs bill

A first-year law student at the Open University (OU) has run up a costs bill of over £8,000 after trying to sue six other students for alleged defamation arising from comments posted on a private LLB forum.

When she joined the OU’s online forum in 2017, mature law student Samantha Exley claimed she was “a practising solicitor with 25 years’ experience”. Unsurprisingly, other LLB students posted comments on the forum questioning Exley’s claims, and she quickly became the subject of some satirical remarks.

Unhappy, 52-year-old Exley took drastic action and issued a claim for defamation in September 2017 at Barrow-in-Furness County Court, holding a senior member of staff at OU’s law school responsible for the students’ online postings.

In January 2018, deputy district Judge Forrester struck out her claim. According to the judgment, seen by Legal Cheek, Exley’s claim had not only been filed in the wrong court, it had “no real prospect of success”. To make matters worse the judgment reveals Exley — who represented herself throughout the proceedings — was hit with a costs order in excess £4,800.

Undeterred by Forrester’s judgment and hefty costs bill, Exley then re-issued her claim through the High Court in April 2018, naming six students, and the moderator of the OU forum, as co-defendants. The legal documents, again seen by Legal Cheek, show Exley claimed she’d been the subject of approximately 300 “hurtful, defamatory, malicious and offensive comments” over a four-month period.

In April, Exley’s High Court claim was struck out. According to the judgment, both Exley’s claim form, particulars of claim and accompanying documents were “an abuse of the court’s process,” and failed “to set out in numbered paragraphs concisely the facts relied upon to prove the causes of action”. She was given time to resubmit her claim.

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Unfortunately, it seems Exley’s second attempt was arguably worse than her first. The new 78-page bundle largely comprised reproductions of various forum postings, alongside details relating to her education, work history and health.

This didn’t go down well with the High Court. According to Master Cook’s judgment (embedded below), Exley had neither set out the legal basis for her claim against each defendant, nor had she identified the cause of the loss and damage claimed. Exley’s defamation claim was struck out and she was hit with a further costs order of some £3,350. Legal Cheek understands Exley has applied for leave to appeal the master’s judgment.

David Carrod, one of the LLB students who Exley attempted to bring legal action against, told us:

“This whole matter was ill-conceived and misguided from the start, and the members of the judiciary who were unfortunate enough to have to read Ms Exley’s badly pleaded ramblings certainly agreed with that proposition.”

Exley did not respond to Legal Cheek‘s requests for comment. The Open University declined to comment.

Read the High Court’s order in full below:

Comments on this article are now closed.

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38 Comments

Anonymous

Do you know her grounds of appeal?

(26)(0)

Anonymous

Is being a big snowflake a valid ground?

(19)(1)

Anonymous

Usual litigant in person grounds of appeal, I expect:

1) The Master came to a decision unfavourable to me;

2) The Master came to that decision because he was (for wholly unspecified reasons) biased against me;

3) Striking out my claim would be a breach of my Human Rights (picking various rights at random, not restricting it to the right to a fair trial);

Bonus LIP points for combining the appeal with (a) an application to set aside the Master’s judgment for ludicrous reasons; (b) launching a claim which is identical to the one that has just been struck out, but in a different court.

(39)(5)

PB

Next she’ll have been standing up for women’s rights.

(5)(8)

Anonymous

Jesus, 25 years experience and she still made those silly mistakes.

(41)(0)

BPTC student

She clearly isn’t a practising solicitor with 25 years’ experience if she’s doing a law degree, innit.

(21)(19)

Anonymous

You reckon?

(29)(2)

Anonymous

Whoosh.

(22)(0)

Anonymous

Is claiming someone is an Open uni student defamatory?

(33)(11)

Anonymous

Not at all. If a student can complete an full time LLB while juggling work and a family I think that shows far more about dedication to a career path than most completing the degree. It highlights ability to manage their time and be self sufficient.

(37)(5)

Anonymous

Lol I know multiple people who juggle their open degrees with working 10 hours a week in a bar, just cos they’re too lazy to finish a degree in 3 years.

What’s with this idea that someone is a functioning human being just cos they’re over 35? U.K. is suffused with benefits and inheritances, including among the 100% uneducated, can’t read, write, count underclass

(8)(26)

Anonymous

Do you need an adult? I ask because it appears you can’t quite see the irony of your comment and the inability to be bothered to write “because” whilst ranting about other humans inability to read and write and their laziness.

(20)(0)

Anonymous

Serious Q, are you one of these 53 year olds who’s never learnt to count and takes c.1/2 hour to write one paragraph, who’s so proud of her oh so neat handwriting while claiming income support and living in an inherited flat?

(2)(14)

Anonymous

Close. My handwriting is atrocious. Have a camomile tea and relax.

(16)(1)

Paul

Ah, the courage anonymity affords…. The level of insecurity and feelings of inferiority displayed by your posts remains utterly hilarious. Let me guess, law school drop out with a chip on your shoulder? Yep, thought so.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

>complains about inability to read and write
>says words like lol and “cos” instead of because

Ok.

(16)(0)

Anonymous

Hmm, I did mine part-time while holding down a fairly stressful full-time job as a VP in an investment bank (not 10h a week behind a bar – try 45+ in an office). Weekends written off for 4 years.

I suggest that you might be a bit of a presumptuous 2@….

(3)(9)

A bored corporate psychologist

No you didn’t.
If you did, you’d realise that any investment banker job is not 45 hours / week or even close.
And that your weekends are filled with work anyway.
And that no one remains a VP in an investment bank for 6 years – it’s a stopping point on the way to MD or indeed to pursing other opportunities.
I actually do work in an adjacent industry, so be honest, are you actually the least overworked, longest tenured VP in the i-bank world?
Or are you VP for compliance, and you dildo yourself every night pretending you’re an investment banker?

(14)(8)

Anonymous

There’s something extremely sinister about publishing a judgment and censoring the names of the parties. The reason judgments are published is so that justice is done and can be seen to be done. This is a public document. I understand the editors probably wanted to avoid stigmatising some students – but the idea that simply being involved in court proceedings is stigmatising is itself damaging.

(14)(2)

Anonymous

Just looked at the doc, and realised it’s an order. Same point applies.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

True: “Read the High Court’s order in full” (apart from some of it).

(1)(1)

Just Anonymous

The worst thing is when this sort of individual comes to you for legal advice. And you have to tell them that they have no chance in hell, and that their money would be better invested on a poker table – where at least there would be a tangible chance of a return.

And you give this advice in full knowledge that its falling on deaf ears, and that the client will in all likelihood try and sue you six months later, on the basis that you failed to spot their slam-dunk million pound claim…

(30)(4)

Anonymous

Spot on. Those terrible moments at court when you realise that the complaint is in the post because they can’t win.

(2)(2)

Anonymous

@10:09 – not talking specifically about this case, but generally speaking what you describe is a problem with the legal system rathet than the client to be fair.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

She sounds like a typical entitled old biddy, who thinks that just cos she’s a weird old woman the world owes her something.
The sad part is, people often do indulge these types, rather than giving them the quick slap to the face their behaviour merits

(21)(5)

Paul

You sound like an actual child. Please tell me that you have no connection to the legal profession or legal education in any meaningful capacity.

(5)(5)

Anonymous

I received a triple first in jurisprudence from Cambridge.

I am now an extremely successful media lawyer specialising in porn

(12)(2)

Paul

I stand corrected. Sorry.

(4)(1)

Anonymous

Anyone know what D1’s counterclaim was about?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

‘Satirical remarks’ – LC guarding their journalism against Exley’s next claim. Well played.

(7)(0)

Lord Harley's Wag

Is this the second coming of Dr Alan Blacker Lord Harley KGCSt.J. DPhil?

(6)(0)

Anonymous

He’s qualified though isn’t he?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

He’s been struck off so I don’t suppose he’s qualified to practice anymore.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

I was only struck off because:

1) The SDT came to a decision unfavourable to me;

2) The SDT came to that decision because it was biased against me;

3) Striking me off breached my Human Rights under Articles 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9.

(4)(1)

A

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Watcher

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

A

Who needs two law degrees?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The first must be worthless if she thinks an OU degree improves it.

(1)(4)

Comments are closed.

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