Reference:  EWHC 3028 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Eady J
Date of judgment: 19 Dec 2007
Summary: Libel - Amendment - Adding parties - Disapplication of limitation period - Corporate libel claims - Discretion
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Appearances: Justin Rushbrooke KC (Claimant) Godwin Busuttil (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Schillings for the Claimants; Reynolds Porter Chamberlain for the Defendant.
An individual and a company (C2) sued for libel in respect of an article published in May 2005. A year later, after the limitation period had expired, C2 applied to add two subsidiaries, C3 and C4 to the claim by substituting them for parts of C2’s claim under CPR 19.5. The application was refused and an appeal dismissed. C3 and C4 now applied under s32A of the Limitation Act 1980 for disapplication of the limitation period. In the alternative C2 applied to amend its claim to seek compensation for injury to its subsidiaries.
(1) Was it equitable to disapply the limitation period under s 32A of the 1980 Act?
(2) Should C2’s proposed amendment be allowed?
Refusing both applications:
(1) There would be prejudice to the D if the applications of C3 & C4 were allowed, whereas the merits of their potential claims were unconvincing. Genuine libel claims must be pursued with vigour, and there was no reason to disapply the disciplines Parliament chose to adopt for this form of litigation.
(2) C2’s proposed amendment was inconsistent with established principles of law; it would also be refused as a matter of discretion.
The strict one-year time limit for defamation claims applies equally to corporate entities as to individuals.