Ronaldo v Telegraph Media Limited
Reference:  EWHC 2719 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Sharp J
Date of judgment: 27 Oct 2010
Summary: Defamation - Libel - Abuse of process - Whether action should be struck out in accordance with Jameel v Dow Jones - Section 12 Defamation Act 1952 - Actions against different publishers - Whether settlement with one makes it an abuse to continue against the other
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Adam Speker QC (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Schillings for C; David Price for D
C, a professional footballer, sued D, the publisher of the Daily Telegraph over an article published on 18 July 2008 alleging that, whilst in LA, after an ankle operation, he had put down his crutches to dance and had drank copious amounts of champagne. The Telegraph article was, in part, a report of what had been published the previous day on the front page of the Daily Mirror. Both cases proceeded together towards a trial date in November 2009. At the PTR D applied successfully to split the trials arguing it was unfair for its case to be heard at the same time as the Mirror action. The Mirror case settled with a payment of damages, an apology and a statement in open court. The Telegraph reported the Mirror settlement. D then argued there was no basis for the case against it to continue because C had achieved vindication and the case against it was only continuing because of costs. It also said that since it was reporting what was said in the Mirror the court should be readier to invoke the Jameel jurisdiction in relation to cases of reported speech.
Whether the claim should be struck out as an abuse of process in accordance with the principles developed by the Court of Appeal in Jameel (Yousef) v Dow Jones
Dismissing the application:
C had not yet been compensated for the separate harm that publication in the Telegraph may have caused and it could not be said that damages would be trivial. Publication was large and to a different audience and there was a justification plea on the record. Nor did high costs make a clam an abuse. The proper course was to rely upon section 12 of the Defamation Act 1952 where there may be double recovery on damages and provisions of the CPR to ensure costs were proportionate: Hays v Hartley distinguished. There was no reason for the court to be readier to invoke the Jameel jurisdiction in cases relating to reported speech. The courts had developed the defence of reportage to protect reported speech.
(obiter) Generally such applications should be made as soon as possible.
A bold application very close to trial which ended in failure. The Court considered that the argument that the claim against the Telegraph became an abuse once the Mirror action was settled was ‘misconceived.’ It was also concerned at the implications of D’s submissions. As it said at , ‘if the submissions made on behalf of the Telegraph are correct, a publisher relying upon section 12 of the Defamation Act 1952, or a republisher (as the Telegraph suggests it is in this case) need only wait until after the conclusion of the first action – whether after a trial or settlement – and report the result, without correction or apology of its own, and then it can apply to have the action struck out. This would in my view have serious implications potentially, for a claimant’s article 8 rights to the protection of his or her reputation, quite apart from the potential encouragement that might be given to republish defamatory allegations appearing in another newspaper, and then to refuse to compromise legitimate complaints that are made about them.’
One only has to think about what happened in the McCann or Murat cases to see the problems that might occur if this argument had succeeded.