Full case report

Johnson v Perot Systems Europe Ltd & Another

Reference [2005] EWHC 2450 (QB)
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 11 Nov 2005


Summary

Defamation – Breach of contract – Negligent misstatement – Summary Judgment – CPR Part 24 – Abuse of process – Fraud and dishonesty – Judicial impartiality – Justification – Qualified privilege


Facts

Defendants’ application for summary judgment against claims brought for defamation, breach of contract and negligent misstatement. The Defendant also sought a civil restraint order. The Defamation claim was founded on a poor employment reference. The Ds relied upon evidence of forged witness statements, false allegations of bias against Eady J and inconsistent and untenable evidence given by the Claimant and his wife as constituting an abuse of process. The Ds argued the Claimant’s case was improbable and implausible and the defences bound to succeed. The Claimant formally requested at the end of the hearing that another judge should be assigned the claim.


Issue

Whether
(i) the Judge should recuse himself;
(ii) the claim should be struck out for abuse of process
(iii) the claims had any prospect of success.


Held

Dismissing the action,
(i) The private detective evidence of Eady J’s bias was irrelevant and an attempt to undermine the administration of justice. It was not in the interests of justice for another judge to take control of the claim; (ii) Abuse of process was established in the sense contemplated in Arrow Nominees Inc v Blackledge, 22 June 2000, CA (unreported) (that a litigant’s conduct puts the fairness of a trial in jeopardy or ensures that any judgment in his favour would be regarded as unsafe). This was determinative of the application. Further expenditure of time and money in the case would serve no useful function; (iii) There was no realistic prospect of the plea of justification failing – especially having regard to s.5 of the Defamation Act 1952. There was ample evidence of irrefutable dishonesty.
(iii) The Qualified privilege defence was likely to succeed.
(iv) Breach of contract nor breach of a duty of care could be established.


Comment

It is unusual for there to be an application for summary judgment in a case involving allegations of fraud or dishonesty and the court will require cogent evidence. Courts must act cautiously in removing an opportunity for a party to persude a jury of their version of events. The test is one of incredibility or perversity rather than implausibility. In this case that test was met.


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Instructing Solicitors

Bray Walker for the Claimant; CMS Cameron McKenna for the Defendant