In the course of the trial of a notorious probate action in Hong Kong, in which an adventurer sought to challenge the will of a property tycoon, leaving her vast fortune to a charitable foundation, relying on a later will – ultimately found to be forged – leaving everything to him, D provided to the solicitor and counsel acting for the adventurer a document for use in discrediting a significant witness for the charitable foundation, stating, when asked, that the person who provided the document to her, and for whom she was acting in passing it to the lawyers, was C. The C was otherwise entirely unconnected to the probate litigation, though he was a business associate of the witness.
Before cross-examination of the witness in the probate trial on the document proceeded, the Judge asked its provenance, and was told by counsel in open court that it was provided by C. That information, although stated in good faith by the solicitor and counsel, was admittedly false. It was widely reported, causing, so C claimed, serious reputational damage and special damage to him.
C brought Norwich Pharmacal proceedings to discover D’s identity, and then sued her for slander and malicious falsehood. D claimed absolute privilege, and claimed that in any event, damage caused directly by the republications could not be recovered against D in an action founded on the original publication, as the republications were admittedly absolutely privileged.
The trial judge rejected the claim, finding that D was malicious, but that her statement did not bear the pleaded innuendo meaning, and in any event he upheld the plea of absolute privilege. C appealed.