By Madeleine Petersen Weiner, Research Fellow and Doctoral Candidate at Heidelberg University
On 8 February 2024, Advocate General (AG) Szpunar delivered his Opinion on C-633/22 (AG Opinion), submitting that disproportionate damages for reputational harm may go against the freedom of expression as enshrined in Art. 11 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (CFR). The enforcement of these damages therefore may (and at times will) constitute a violation of public policy in the enforcing state within the meaning of Art. 34 Nr. 1 Brussels I Regulation. The AG places particular emphasis on the severe deterring effect these sums of damages may have – not only on the defendant newspaper and journalist in the case at hand but other media outlets in general (AG Opinion, paras. 161-171). The decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will be of particular topical interest not least in light of the EU’s efforts to combat so-called “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” (SLAPPs) within the EU in which typically financially potent plaintiffs initiate unfounded claims for excessive sums of damages against public watchdogs (see COM(2022) 177 final).