Reference:  EWHC 2487 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Eady J
Date of judgment: 22 Oct 2008
Summary: Defamation - Slander - Adequacy of evidence - Proof of oral publication - Slander actionable without proof of special damage
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Instructing Solicitors: C in person; Lam & Meerabux for F; A Z for K
C claimed damages for slander, alleging that during a meeting involving the two defendants (F and K) and potential customers F had said “Forget Mr Shah [the C], he cannot get you any property,” and that K had made similar disparaging allegations about C’s business practices. Both defendants denied making defamatory statements. The principal witness for C was his assistant. F did not give evidence in person.
(1) Whether C was able to prove that either or both F and K spoke the words pleaded;
(2) Whether the words were capable of being defamatory.
(3) Whether the alleged words, if published, were actionable without proof of special damage.
In light of the conflict of evidence, the judge was not persuaded on the balance of probabilities that F had spoken the words attributed to him. Moreover, those words were not capable of being defamatory on their face and no innuendo meaning had been pleaded.
None of the testimony before the court about K’s alleged statements could be accepted with unqualified confidence. Given the conflict of evidence and the shifting nature of C’s case against K, K was found on the balance of probabilities not to have spoken the words attributed to him.
Further, C had failed to prove that he carried on a business of finding commercial properties, such as to satisfy the relevant statutory requirement that the words were “calculated to disparage… in any office, profession, calling, trade or business held or carried on by him at the time of the publication”( s. 2 Defamation Act 1952).
This case reiterates the need for the claimant in any slander action to establish ‘with reasonable clarity’ the words said to have been spoken.