Over a thousand people are launching legal proceedings against billionaire Richard Branson after he was quoted in a news story describing himself running naked. The lawsuits are aimed at claiming compensation for the ‘deep emotional distress caused by the mental image of a naked Branson’.
News reports of a fire on the Virgin CEO’s private island featured a quote where he told of being awoken by screaming in the night. ‘I was in the house right next door and looked over, saw the whole house engulfed in flames, and just ran stark naked to the house to try to get people out.’ Holidaymakers staying at the luxury destination at the time have reported that the screaming increased dramatically once the naked business tycoon made a run for the fire-stricken house.
Jenny Green of Maidstone, Kent, was one of the first to consult a lawyer after hearing the story.
‘My husband was reading the news on the computer and made a joke about it being a failed assassination attempt by God. But then as he continued reading he went quiet, turned deathly pale and started shaking uncontrollably. I asked him what was wrong but he just made unintelligible noises and pointed at the screen. I read for myself and that was when I saw the quote.....it....it was terrible, just the thought of it...I....I’m sorry, it’s still very difficult to talk about.’
Mrs Green is suing the Virgin tycoon along with CBS, who ran the story. She is claiming £1 million in emotional damages as well as the costs of counselling, which she claims will take many years to get her over her new phobia of news reports.
There are others who have been affected even more deeply than those who read the story. One witness, who wished to remain anonymous, was on the island at the time.
‘I woke in the middle of the night to find my room filled with smoke. Luckily the flames were at the other end of the house, so I made my way to the front door to get out. As I was about to step through the open door I was confronted by an horrific sight – Branson was running straight towards me, completely naked.’
‘I turned and ran back into the house, I didn’t know where I was running to but just needed to get away. In the end I ran straight through the heart of the fire before somehow finding my way out of a back window. I suffered 3rd degree burns to 90% of my body and the doctors say I’m fortunate to be alive. I don’t feel very fortunate at the moment though, I’m never going to get the image out of my mind of him running at me with his bits bouncing all....oh my God! Nurse! More morphine!’
[Hat-tip Ian Searle & writingbsl for the assassination attempt line, plus drawing my attention to the story in the first place]