Full case report
Stallwood & Stallwood v Smith
Court Queen's Bench Division
Judge Tugendhat J
Date of Judgment 1 Jul 2003
Defamation- Libel – Qualified Privilege- Summary Judgment-Part 24- Whether pre-action correspondence between a prospective litigant and a solicitor are protected by qualified privilege
The Claimants owned property next door to the Defendant. They sued the Defendant in respect of allegations in three out of four letters written by the Defendant to the Claimant’s solicitor in the course of pre-action correspondence about a boundary dispute between the parties.
Whether the publications were protected by qualified privilege.
Entering summary judgment on this issue for the Defendant. The letters were protected by qualified privilege. The Defendant plainly had a legitimate interest in writing the letters and the solicitor had a legitimate interest in receiving them. If there were any irrelevant matters in the letters that was an issue which went to malice: Horrocks v Lowe  AC 135, applied and Lillie & Reed v Newcastle City Council and others  EWHC 1600 (QB) at  followed.
This is a classic ‘off the peg’ privilege. The only surprise is that there is not more authority on the matter.
Lloyd Barnes for the Defendant
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