Broxton v McClelland (No.2)

Reference: [1996] EWCA Civ 955; [1997] EMLR 157

Court: Court of Appeal

Judge: Staughton & Swinton Thomas LJJ and Judge J

Date of judgment: 14 Nov 1996

Summary: Defamation - Libel - conduct of jury trial

Appearances: Patrick Milmo QC - Leading Counsel (Claimant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Bindman & Partners for the Defendant

Facts

The Claimant had been defamed in Paris-Soir (which was the subject of a separate action). She alleged that the article had been published by the Defendants in this case by: (1) sending it attached to a letter to one person who then displayed it in a shop window in Spain (2) pinning it to a shop window in London. The jury only found that the letter had been published attached to the said letter and awarded zero damages for this publication.

Issue

(1) General challenge by the Claimant as to the conduct of the trial by the trial judge; (2) the admission of evidence regarding the dispute between the Defendants and the Claimant’s maintainer; and (3) the award of zero damages for the publication to one person.

Held

All bases for the appeal were rejected. The court reaffirmed the very high threshold required to overturn a libel jury verdict: “. . . in an action for libel a Court of Appeal should pay no regard to any supposed misdirection by the Judge, on law or fact, unless it was plainly such as to lead to a substantial miscarriage of justice.”

Comment

The admission of the evidence regarding the maintenance of the Claimant by the Defendants’ commercial rival demonstrates the way in which apparently irrelevant evidence can be called in libel trials on the issue of damage to the claimant (e.g., as here, the maintainer evidence was relevant to the genuineness of the Claimant in claiming that she had suffered damage to reputation and feelings).

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