Craig Wright v Peter McCormack to proceed to trial despite McCormack abandoning defense

The Court in the Wright v McCormack case heard an attempt by lawyers for Dr. Craig Wright to have the Court issue a summary judgment in the Wright’s favor off the back of the news that Peter McCormack would no longer defend the lawsuit. The Court declined the application due to a paperwork error, giving Wright’s side a chance to refile before next year’s trial.

Wright’s lawyers had hoped to resolve the case—including questions as to damages—this week by asking the judge to resolve the lawsuit in Dr. Wright’s favor without a trial. However, a discrepancy between the initial claim form and subsequent filings regarding the timestamps of the publications being complained of meant that the Judge declined to grant the summary judgment application. Lawyers for Dr. Wright, SCA ONTIER, had filed an application to amend the claim form, but as the discrepancy was only noted by the Judge, Mr. Justice Nicol, when the hearing began on Monday, the application could not be served with the three days’ notice as required by civil procedure rules and the Judge declined to abridge time for service of the application.

However, Mr. Justice Nicol did grant Dr. Wright’s alternative request that the case proceed to trial on an expedited basis with a time estimate of two days. As a result, the trial may be held before its current start date of May 4, 2021. Mr. Justice Nicol also granted Dr. Wright permission to revive his summary judgment application at trial.

The discrepancy between the filings means that we have narrowly missed the chance to see a resolution in the case, as both sides—even McCormack—appeared ready for the suit to reach its conclusion. McCormack’s lawyers had written to SCA ONTIER saying that McCormack was willing to agree to give an undertaking to the English Court not to repeat or cause to have repeated the alleged defamatory publications that form the basis of the claim—that Wright was fraudulently claiming to be Satoshi Nakamoto—as long as Dr. Wright agreed:

  1. that this wouldn’t prevent McCormack from reporting any other findings of fraud concerning Dr. Wright, and
  2. that if any English court found that Dr. Wright’s claim to the Nakamoto name was fraudulent, then McCormack would be released from the undertaking.

This undertaking would not have precluded Dr. Wright from pursuing damages.

While this represents a missed chance to resolve the lawsuit this week, the case appears set to continue toward trial is likely to be a minor inconvenience for Dr. Wright, who has appeared eager to face McCormack in court since filing the suit in 2019. He and his lawyers will have the chance to amend the claim form and resubmit their application on the first day of trial.

Whether McCormack chooses to revive his defense or maintains his position not to defend the claim is currently unknown. McCormack lost the financial support of Tether after a discovery process in which Dr. Wright produced over 9,000 documents, which it can be assumed were mostly concerned with refuting McCormack’s argument that the publications in question were true. Whatever was contained in those documents apparently was enough evidence of Wright’s credibility to cause them to abandon the case.

For now, assuming the case isn’t settled before the trial in May of next year and assuming no summary judgment is granted at that point, Dr. Wright will get to hold McCormack to account for what he claims are libelous publications made online. The trial is currently set for May 4, 2021.

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