1. The meaning was one of insolvency. A reader would have drawn from the email that the claimant was a defaulter who had failed to pay the defendant the outstanding sums owed, and that the reason for that lack of payment was that the claimant was insolvent.
2. The defendant was unable to prove that the claimant was insolvent at the time that the allegation was made, and so the defence of justification failed. However, it was proved by the defendant that the claimant was extremely close to being insolvent. The defendant also proved the substantial truth of the rest of the defamatory meaning conveyed by the email.
3. The publication was not protected by qualified privilege. The defendant and the audience did not have a common legitimate interest in the communication of the information about the claimant’s solvency. Neither did the defendant have a social or moral duty to warn other companies about the claimant’s solvency.
4. The claimant’s case of malice was rejected as the agent of the defendant who sent the email had grounds for concluding that the reason for the claimant’s non-payment was that it was unable to do so. Though the defendant’s agent was annoyed with the claimant, and wanted to persuade the claimant to pay, his primary motive was a belief that he was under a duty to warn other companies about the claimant.
5. The claim was not an abuse of process. The claimant’s bringing of the action was intended to vindicate its reputation, and rebut an imputation of insolvency that was false. This was seen by the court to be a proper use of the court’s process.
6. Despite the above, given that the defendant had succeeded proving the partial truth of the email, Warby J decided to reduce the award of damages to the ‘minimal’ level of £10. The court took four factors into account when deciding to award damages:
• the appropriate way in which to reflect the fact that the claimant led the defendant to believe it was insolvent was to take it into account on the issue of damages;
• the significant extent to which the defendant has proved the truth of the defamatory meanings of the words complained of;
• the claimant’s dishonest behaviour in the past; and
• the claimant’s ‘disreputable and, ultimately, dishonest conduct’ of its case at trial.