The Claimant (the Respondent to the appeal) was a resident of the Isle of Man. He had worked as the right hand man of a wealthy businessman, Mr Albert Gubay for many years but was dismissed in July 2009. The Claimant brought a claim for libel in respect of a letter sent by the Appellants (the Defendants – a Mr Nugent and his accountancy firm BDO (Isle of Man) LLC) to Isle of Man Customs and Excise. The Claimant contended that the letter suggested that he had been guilty of gross impropriety in connection with the affairs of Cross Atlantic Venture Ltd and other companies linked to Mr Gubay.
The Claimant did not become aware of the letter until 22nd June 2013 or shortly thereafter when he received it as part of a response to a subject access request he had made. As soon as the Claimant became aware of the contents of the letter he instructed his Isle of Man Advocates and on 29th June 2013 sent a copy by email to his English solicitor asking for advice. On 7 November 2013 letter before action were sent to the Appellants with draft Particulars of Claim. On 15th December 2013, the Claimant issued libel proceedings in the Isle of Man.
The claim was not an isolated claim. In the Isle of Man Mr Gubay was pursuing claims against the Claimant alleging impropriety relating to supply of building materials for his personal use. There had been English proceedings against the Claimant which were discontinued. The Claimant also had brought English proceedings against Mr Gubay for civil malicious prosecution in which he alleged the others claims against him (the Claimant) were part of a campaign by Mr Gubay to do him harm.
Mr Gubay died on 5th January 2016.
The limitation period for libel claims in the Isle of Man is 1 year, as in England and Wales.
The Appellants applied to strike out the claim various grounds including that the claim was out of time and that it was an abuse of process as the costs of the claim would outweigh any legitimate benefit (Jameel v Dow Jones & Co Inc  QB 46). The Claimant (Respondent) made a cross application to postpone the limitation period on the grounds the letter had been concealed from him or allowing the claim to proceed under s.30A Limitation Act 1984 (Isle of Man) [Discretionary exclusion of time limit for actions for defamation or malicious falsehood] which is in near identical terms to s.32A Limitation Act 1980 (England & Wales).
At first instance in the Isle of Man, Deemster Corlett dismissed the Appellants’ application to strike out the claim and refused to postpone the limitation period but decided to exercise his discretion to allow the action to proceed under s.30A.
The Appellants appealed in the Isle of Man to the Staff of Government Division. The appeal was heard by Judge of Appeal Tattersall QC and Deemster Doyle. On 30th June 2016 they gave judgment dismissing the appeal holding that Deemster Corlett had properly considered all of the delay from October 2010 and that he was entitled to concluded that the Claimant had acted reasonably promptly once he discovered the letter.
The Appellants appealed from the Isle of Man appellate court to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council which granted permission to appeal on 15th February 2017.