Superior Court of Berlin: Atty. Dr. Seyfert wins based on freedom of speech – The statement that a certain doctor is “one of the most dangerous & deadly doctors” is covered by freedom of expression (Case No. 10 W 52/17)

Our client holds a doctorate in science and is a respected science journalist. In a public discussion with a journalist from the news magazine DER SPIEGEL, our client said, among other things, that a certain doctor – named by him in the discussion – was “one of the most dangerous & lethal doctors”.

This doctor applied to the Berlin Regional Court for an interim injunction against our client. Our client’s statement was allegedly damaging to his reputation and violated the general right of personality of the doctor under attack. Our defense was that such a statement was covered by freedom of speech and freedom of expression as protected in Article 5(1) of the German Constitution (Basic Law). In our view, there was no defamatory criticism that would not be covered by Article 5(1) of the Basic Law, because our client had merely expressed his views in a pointed manner in the context of an exchange of opinions and public defamation of the doctor was not in the foreground.

The Berlin Regional Court ruled in our favor and dismissed the application for an interim injunction against our client. The doctor lodged an immediate appeal against this decision of the Regional Court at the second instance with the Berlin Court of Appeal (Superior Court of Berlin) but was ultimately unsuccessful again. The Court of Appeals agreed with us that “the statement at issue would be understood by the average reader as a polemically exaggerated formulation about the quality of [the doctor’s] professional services.” The high threshold for the assumption of defamatory criticism was not reached.

Indeed, the freedom of opinion of Article 5(1) of the Basic Law would not be worth very much if every exaggerated formulation already came into conflict with the law. The unhindered exchange of free opinions would be considerably impaired.