Loughton Contracts Plc v Dun & Bradstreet Ltd
Reference:  EWHC 1224 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Gray J
Date of judgment: 25 May 2006
Summary: Defamation - Libel - Offer of amends - Summary judgment - Further information - Whether Claimant had accepted offer of amends - Whether Claimant entitled to further information as to the identity of publishees
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Adam Speker QC (Defendant)
Instructing Solicitors: Foskett Marr Gadsby & Webb for the Claimant; Bird & Bird for the Defendant
From December 2004 until at least 31 May 2005, D published to a number of C’s customers a credit report about C which was incorrect and defamatory. Upon receiving notice that the report was wrong D corrected it and sent a revised copy to publishees. C sued for libel claiming general damages and reserving the right to plead special damage in the future. D made an unqualified offer of amends in respect of the pleaded case on general damage. Correspondence then followed about whether the offer as made had been accepted. C applied for summary judgment and sought further information.
(1) Whether the C was entitled to summary judgment;
(2) Whether the offer of amends had been accepted;
(3) If not whether it could still be accepted;
(4) Whether D should provide further information about the identity of the publishees.
(1) & (2) C was not entitled to summary judgment. D’s offer of amends was properly constituted and confined to C’s pleaded case on general damage: Nail v News Group Newspapers and Abu v MGN followed. By attaching conditions to the acceptance C had not accepted the offer.
(3) If the failure to accept the offer was held to be a rejection then s.4 Defamation Act 1996 would apply and D would have a complete defence. That would be unjust. The offer made by D in respect of general damage only was still open for acceptance.
(4) D did not have to provide the further information sought since it was only relevant to special damages, which were not in issue.
This re-affirms the guidance in Nail v News Group and Abu v MGN that a Claimant must set out its full case on damage in the letter of claim or the Particulars of Claim. A failure to do so and make further demands could be dangerous.