Full case report
Charterhouse Clinical Research Unit Ltd v Richmond Pharmacology Ltd
Reference  EWHC 1099 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division
Judge Morland J
Date of Judgment 2 May 2003
Defamation – Trade libel – Human rights – Freedom of expression – s.12(4) Human Rights Act 1998 – Art.10 European Convention on Human Rights
The Claimant company claimed that a representative of the first Defendant company had libelled the Claimant in an email to the senior vice-president of Alza, a company with whom the Claimant was negotiating, by way of an innuendo meaning that the Claimant lacked the ability to provide the relevant services effectively as they had lost most of their staff to the first Defendant.
Whether the email, questioning the Claimant’s ability to perform a particular service, could amount to a libel of the Claimant personally.
The courts had a duty to restrict trade libel to its proper boundary, particularly in light of s.12(4) of the Human Rights Act 1998 and Art.10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ‘libel’ here was of the quality of a service, rather than of the provider of that service, and as such did not give rise to a claim in defamation – ICN Photonics Ltd v Patterson considered  EWCA Civ 343. The claim was dismissed.
This is another example of a trade libel claim failing to disclose a personal imputation against the manufacturer/service provider, but is interesting because of Morland J’s insistence that the law of defamation must be kept within its proper limits. He adopted a similar approach in O’Shea v MGN Ltd  EMLR 943.
Allen & Overy for the Claimant. David Price Solicitors and Advocates for the Defendants.
More from 5RB
5RB is the pre-eminent set in the area for handling defamation, privacy, contempt and data protection matters. Interviewees praise the set for having great depth and quality of counsel, and note that it boasts many of the top barristers in the field. Get the lowdown here.
New 22nd Edition of Clerk & Lindsell on Torts, published by Sweet & Maxwell. Further info here.