As a fan of the BBC series Top Gear and a civil litigation lawyer, it was with peaked interest I read the recent decision of Tesla Motors v. British Broadcasting Corporation, England and Wales Court of Appeals (Civil Division). The story of this case began with a 2008 Top Gear episode with a road test of the Telsa Roadster, conducted and narrated by the show’s host Jeremy Clarkson. During the episode, Jeremy put the vehicle through it’s paces and was rather critical of it’s performance. Tesla Motors was not pleased and sued BBC for libel alleging Top Gear made false statements about the Roadster, specifically comments by Jeremy that the vehicle only made it 55 miles on the track instead of Tesla’s promoted range of 200 miles.
As an American personal injury lawyer, I admittedly know very little about the merits of pursuing a libel suit in the United Kingdom’s court system. However, it makes no sense for a car manufacturer to blame it’s lackluster sales on a Top Gear episode. Anyone that watches the show knows its primary goal is to entertain car enthusiasts. Top Gear doesn’t claim to be some sort of British Consumer Reports conducting objective scientific tests on the best cars to buy. A typical test is conducted on a track at breakneck speed or some sort of crazy race against a jet, train or dog sled. Rarely will the average motorist ever find himself driving a vehicle under the insane conditions a car finds itself on Top Gear, which is exactly what Lord Justice Martin Moore-Bick wrote in the published opinion.