Malicious Falsehood

In the case of Citation Plc v Ellis Whittam Ltd [2012] EWHC 549 (QB) the parties were competitors. Citation brought proceedings for slander and malicious falsehood as to words spoken by an employee of Ellis Whittan Limited to a prospective client. The Claimant then entered into a contract with the client.

It was stated that the Claimant has provided

  • “inadequate and second-rate service to its clients, in particular as compared with the Defendant’s, such that prospective clients should steer well clear of it”.

The Claimant couldn’t provide any details of further publications by third parties.  It invited the court to infer this had happened, and stated its intention to rely on this at trial. The Claimant also sought an injunction to prevent further publication, with the same or similar words by the Defendant.   It said damages were not its main purpose.

The Defendant defended the claim on the basis that it denied publication of the words with the plea that further publishees were speculative.  The Defendant sought an order that the claim be struck out on the grounds that:

  • It was an abuse of  process of the court;
  • That the particulars of claim disclosed no reasonable grounds for bringing the claim; and
  • There was no real and substantial tort.

The claim was struck out.

The reason being that the Claimant had made clear that it hadn’t suffered any actual damage.

The Defendant accepted that it wouldn’t repeat the words again, and the court agreed that litigation would not achieve more than had already been obtained by the time the proceedings were issued.

The claim was struck out as an abuse of process of the court.

Also, a trial would have involved public utterance of the words complained of.

The court stated that the claim wasn’t struck out for pursuing an unqualified undertaking the claim issued was served as it was entitled to do so.  However, once it had done so in practice, it had achieved

  • “all that it could have achieve which would be of any value to it vindicating its reputation.”

Since the Defendant had accepted that it must never repeat the words complained of, the court concluded that litigation could not achieve more than had already been obtained by the time proceedings were issued and so the claim was struck out as an abuse of process. What was the point of carrying on?

For advice as to Malicious Falsehood and defamation proceedings call Carruthers Law today.

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