Full case report

Hussein v William Hill

Reference [2006] EWHC 25 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Tugendhat J

Date of Judgment 20 Jan 2006


Summary

Defamation – Libel – Slander – Abuse of process – Issue estoppel – Attempt to reopen matters decided by court of competent jurisdiction


Facts

H brought an action for personal injury against WH, seeking at least £57,500 in damages. The judge rejected much of his evidence, finding that he had “deliberately exaggerated” his claim, and, after WM had refused to settle with him, “embarked upon a campaign against them”, including “wild allegations of lies”. He was awarded £50 and ordered to pay indemnity costs. He sought permission to appeal but was refused by the Court of Appeal. He brought four further actions against WH, including this action for libel and slander, in which he claimed that WM had printed posters describing him as a racist, conman and troublemaker, and that a manager of a WH branch had slandered him in the same terms. WH denied that they had published any such poster, or that their manager had slandered H, and pleaded that in the alternative such allegations were justified. They also contended that H’s claim was an abuse of process and should be struck out.


Issue

Whether the claim should be struck out as an abuse of process


Held

Striking out the claim; it was clear that many of the matters raised in H’s pleadings were attempts to reopen matters that had been decided conclusively against him in the personal injury proceedings and subsequent application for permission to appeal. Applying Thoday v Thoday [1964] P 181, it was not open to H to do so. Applying Wallis v Valentine and asking what a reasonable man in H’s situation would, in the circumstances, have in mind when pursuing the action, it was clear that one purpose was to re-litigate before a jury the very issues decided against him in the personal injury action. Given H’s reputation in the light of the findings in that action, no significant award of damages could properly be made. As such, the game was not worth the candle. The claim was not genuinely pursued to vindicate damage to H’s reputation, but to cause WH expense, harassment and commercial prejudice.


Comment

It is not common for a case to be struck out as an abuse of process under the principles set out in Wallis v Valentine, but where, as here, there is clear evidence that the Claimant’s motivation was not to vindicate his reputation but rather to harass the Defendant and cause it unnecessary expense, the judge is entitled to manage the case proactively and with due regard to the overriding objectives. Tugendhat J went on to make an extended civil restraint order against the Claimant.


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Instructing Solicitors

The Claimant in person; Wragge & Co for William Hill