The Memo: Trump’s data protection claim dismissed by the High Court

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Trump’s data protection claim dismissed by the High Court

Alice Gregory – 5 February 2024

With four active criminal prosecutions, a civil fraud trial and a recent $83.3 million defamation payout, it’s safe to say that Trump’s lawyers are keeping busy. His latest legal appearance, however, was dismissed by a London High Court judge. This case was a data protection claim made by Trump against Orbis Business Intelligence and concerned the ‘Steele dossier.’ So, what are the specifics of the case, and why was it thrown out?

First things first, the dossier was an intelligence report made up of memos put together by Christopher Steele, ex-MI6 Russia specialist and founder of Orbis. He has claimed that the report was never meant to be made public, but Buzzfeed News got a hold of it and published it in 2017. In these documents, Steele alleges that Russian authorities supported Trump for years leading up to the 2016 presidential election with bribes and intelligence on his rivals. What’s more, the report details “perverted sexual acts” that took place at the presidential suite of a Moscow hotel alongside additional allegations that Trump partook in sex parties in St. Petersburg. Much of the report cannot be verified, but Trump has insisted that the allegations are false.

The basis for Trump’s argument at trial was that the data breach caused him emotional distress and compromised his reputation. These are typical claims in a data breach case and are classed as non-material damages. Victims can seek compensation if they prove that they have been caused harm and that the other party is responsible for exposing their information. Material damages, meanwhile, would compensate claimants for any financial loss caused. That still doesn’t explain why his case was dismissed, though, and for that we’ll have to turn to the Limitation Act 1980. This piece of legislation details the time limit for such cases and, unfortunately for Trump, data breach claims have a six-year limit. Judge Karen Steyn, who presided over this case, dismissed the matter because this deadline had passed. The accuracy of the dossier itself, therefore, was irrelevant to the ruling, and the court determined that Trump had “no reasonable grounds for bringing a claim for compensation.”

Ultimately, this comes as a lesson that any data breaches should be dealt with as early as possible if you want to get compensation. But, then again, one would assume that victims of a data breach would naturally be keen to resolve the issue ASAP. Despite the outcome, a spokesperson for Trump has said that he will “continue to fight for the truth,” so this may not be our final post on the matter... Watch this space!