Refusing permission to amend and striking out the claim:
The words complained of in the email were incapable of bearing any meaning defamatory of any Euromoney company to which they might refer. The allegation of copying a business idea may be undesirable criticism but it was not inherently defamatory. Although it might make a customer think the worse of C, it would not lead a right-thinking member of society to do so. As for the advertisement, so far as it differed from the allegation in the email by reason of the inclusion of the word “fleece”, it was only capable of being an expression of opinion or value judgment. It meant that the company referred to had unfairly overcharged its customers and was defamatory in that meaning. However, C had made no complaint about such a meaning in its draft amended Particulars of Claim.
The case on reference in malicious falsehood in principle had a sufficient prospect of success to justify the grant of permission to join ETL, as did the case of likely pecuniary damage.
On the question of meaning for the purposes of a malicious falsehood claim, and whether a preliminary ruling on meaning is available in such a claim, the Judge referred to his recent judgment in Cruddas v Calvert & Ors  EWHC 1427 (QB). There he had held that the procedure of excluding meanings which the words complained of were not capable of bearing was available to be used in malicious falsehood as well as in defamation. This process could be carried out regardless of the fact that the words complained of in malicious falsehood could ultimately bear more than one meaning.
By using the word “fleece” the advertisement was incapable of imputing dishonesty or fraud.Furthermore, considering the statement made by Ds about the relative experience of C’s staff, said by C to be one to the effect that Ds were more trustworthy than C, J held that this was a comparison which could only be a matter of opinion.
J also accepted Ds’ submission that a statement of opinion could not be complained of as a falsehood for the purposes of a claim in malicious falsehood.
Considering the question of malice, J held that there was no prospect of C establishing an intention on the part of Ds to injure C or ETL, or of proving that D2 did not genuinely hold the opinions he had expressed.
Assuming, contrary to the primary conclusions, that the words complained of were defamatory of C or ETL, or that there was a claim in malicious falsehood, there was no real prospect of either corporate claimant obtaining substantial damages or an injunction. Having regard to the pre-action correspondence, C had demanded more than its entitlement, and had in fact achieved everything they were entitled to from Ds prior to the issue of proceedings. The measure of recoverable damages could not be worth the expenditure of costs and other resources, and there was no real and substantial tort.