Bermuda-headquartered Appleby is seeking damages and a permanent injunction against the two UK media organisations.
According to court documents, the remedies sought by Appleby are damages, “including but not limited to the costs of dealing with regulatory entities, clients, employees, agents and third parties in respect of the breaches of confidence”.
Additionally, the firm wants, “injunctive relief restraining the defendants from communicating or disclosing to any third party, copying or in any other way using the confidential information”.
On the same day, Appleby applied for an order that would force the BBC and Guardian to disclose and deliver copies of all of the documents in their possession related to the law firm.
Change of venue
Appleby brought its claim to the Business and Property Courts of England and Wales on 4 December 2017.
Two days later, the BBC requested that the case be transferred to the Media and Communications List in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court. The application was supported by the Guardian.
Presiding justice Rose accepted that the BBC’s request was made on the basis that “the court hearing the dispute needs to understand journalistic practices and consider whether the actions of the two organisations can be described as ‘responsible journalism’, to the extent that that is relevant to the public interest defence”.
However, on 16 January 2018, Rose determined that the Business and Property Courts was able to hear the case.
According to the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (Step), while the dispute may appear arcane, the BBC and Guardian preferred the Queen’s Bench Division, “on the grounds that it was more used to dealing with litigants in the media and might be more sympathetic to the public interest defence on which they will rely”.
The ruling was published on 26 January.
In May 2016, Appleby uncovered “an unauthorised intrusion” into its server. An investigation by a cyber forensics team found that one or more people accessed the server between November 2015 and May 2016.
Around 13 million documents were passed to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, of which around 6.8 million came from Appleby.
The data trove was then passed to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which disseminated it to member media organisations around the world via a database.
Dubbed the Paradise Papers, newspapers and media organisations around the world published details of the documents when the leak was made public in October 2017.
Appleby is arguing that the documents were stolen and are protected by legal privilege.
It has alleged that the media organisations accessed the confidential information “without any ground for suspecting that the database provided evidence of unlawful activity on the part of Appleby or [its] clients and that, in fact, no evidence of unlawful activity has been uncovered”.
Click through to read about the BBC and Guardian’s defence and the libel case against the BBC.