Mills v MGN Ltd

Reference: [2002] EWHC 1384 (QB)

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Eady J

Date of judgment: 5 Jul 2002

Summary: Defamation - Libel - ruling on meaning - striking out - CPR Part 3.4(2) - exemplary damages

Appearances: Desmond Browne QC - Leading Counsel (Defendant)  Godwin Busuttil (Defendant) 

Instructing Solicitors: Davenport Lyons for the Defendant

Facts

The claimant, now married to Sir Paul McCartney, sued in libel over an article published in the Sunday Mirror. The defendant applied to strike out the defamatory meaning relied on by the claimant and her claim for exemplary damages.

Issue

Whether the meaning pleaded on behalf of the claimant was one which the article was capable of bearing; whether the plea of exemplary damages was permissible.

Held

Application granted. The meaning had been overpleaded; the article was not capable of supporting a meaning of ‘dishonesty’. Cases of ‘dishonesty’ and ‘mercenary calculation’ in the context of claims for exemplary damages must be pleaded with the same cogency as pleas of dishonesty and malice in other contexts.

Comment

Formulaic pleas of exemplary damages will not be permitted.