Ruddy v Mercury Personal Communications Ltd

Reference: 31/07/2000

Court: Queen's Bench Division

Judge: Eady J

Date of judgment: 31 Jul 2000

Summary: Defamation - Libel - Action brought on document disclosed in earlier proceedings - Striking Out - Abuse of Process - CPR Part 31.22(1)


Instructing Solicitors: Brooke North for the Claimant


The Claimant brought libel proceedings on a letter which had been disclosed in earlier civil proceedings in the County Court. Those earlier proceedings had reached trial, at which the letter complained of was read out. The implied undertaking on use of disclosed documents was therefore released – CCR Order 14 rule 8A. The Defendant in the libel proceedings nevertheless contended that it was an abuse of process for the Claimant to sue on the disclosed letter.


(1) Whether there was any restriction on the subsequent use of documents disclosed in earlier proceedings and over which any implied undertaking had been discharged
(2) Whether the action should be struck out as an abuse of process


(1) There was no restriction on the use to which documents could be put once the implied undertaking had come to an end. Mahon v Rahn [1998] QB 424; [1997] 3 All ER 687 followed Singh (Tejendra) v Christie & Ors (1995) EMLR 579 doubted.
(2) The Claimant was entitled to bring proceedings on the disclosed letter and the action would not be struck out.


This case has laid to rest a conflict of authorities. It is plainly right that once a document has been read out in open court and the implied undertaking has been released, any party is entitled to make such use of the document as s/he considers appropriate. The decision was followed in Colbeck v Ferguson & Another, 24 January 2002.