LONDON (CNNfn) - Two unemployed British activists got a big boost in an epic libel suit Wednesday after a British appeals court reduced the damages the pair must pay to McDonald's for printing a libelous pamphlet.
The court reduced to 40,000 pounds ($64,330) from 60,000 (96,930) pounds the damages awarded by a trial judge in 1997 against Londoners David Morris, 44, and Helen Steel, 33.
Morris and Steel have devoted the past 15 years of their lives to a Big Mac-bashing quest that mushroomed into a full-blown "McLibel Case" after McDonald's hauled them into London's Royal Courts on June 28, 1994.
Along the way, the trial - which heard testimony from 180 witnesses - garnered a listing in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running civic suit in British legal history. It also spawned a McLibel Support Group on the World Wide Web.
In a 300-page ruling, the British appeals court said Wednesday it had deemed the initial damages to be too high.
McDonalds, which spent millions of dollars prosecuting the case, is not expected to recover any damages. By contrast, Morris and Steel acquired near-iconic status as quixotic campaigners against the world's reigning hamburger heavyweight, tarnishing the image of the Golden Arches along the way.
In their three-week appeal, the defendants argued that McDonald's had brought the suit in order to prevent them from distributing their now-famous pamphlet, a vegetarian's screed against alleged corporate callousness.
Among other things, the pamphlet accused McDonald's of selling poisonous food, polluting the environment and exploiting workers.
"McDonald's welcomes the ruling of the Court of Appeal today upholding the findings of the trial judge in June, 1997, that the serious allegations made against McDonald's were defamatory," the company said.
In one of the worst setbacks to the defendants during the case, the court ruled at one point that they could not receive daily transcripts of the trial testimony. Instead, the duo, who served as their own attorneys, were told they'd have to take their own notes in the courtroom.
--from staff and wire reports