(1) Dr Fatima Jabbar (2) DRJ55 Limited v AVIVA Insurance UK and others (No 2)

Reference: [2022] EWHC 912 (QB)

Court: High Court, Queen’s Bench Division

Judge: Chamberlain J

Date of judgment: 13 Apr 2022

Summary: Libel; absolute privilege; jurisdiction to hand down of judgment after parties conclude settlement.

Appearances: Adam Wolanski QC - Leading Counsel (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: BLM (Respondents); Wilkes Partnership (Appellants)

Facts

The Defendants applied for summary judgment. After the hearing of the application, but before the draft judgment had been circulated, the parties settled the claim on terms that the Claimants would withdraw the claim and pay the Defendants’ costs. The Defendants asked the court to proceed to hand down judgment notwithstanding the settlement; the Claimant objected to this request. The Deputy Master decided to hand down judgment. The Claimant appealed against the decision to hand down judgment.

Issue

(1) Did the court have jurisdiction to proceed to hand down judgment even though the parties had settled the claim?

(2) If so, was the Deputy Master wrong in deciding to hand down judgment?

Held

Held, dismissing the appeal:

(1) The court did not have to identify ‘exceptional circumstances’ as a precondition to having jurisdiction to hand down judgment: Barclays Bank plc v Nylon Capital LLP [2011] EWCA Civ 826 and Prudential Assurance v McBains Cooper [2000] 1 WLR 2000 considered.

(2) The Deputy Master did not err in deciding to hand down judgment. Her judgment on the summary judgment application decided a novel and important point of law, namely whether the defence of absolute privilege in defamation proceedings applies to statements made in answering Part 35 requests under a pre-action protocol. Moreover the Defendants were entitled to public vindication in respect of pleaded allegations of malice and dishonesty.

Comment

The judgment analyses in details what appear at first blush to be conflicting authorities on the issue of whether the court enjoys jurisdiction, absent exceptional circumstances, to hand down judgment after a case has settled. The judgment which was handed down is reported here.