Full case report

Tanner v Filby and Howell

Reference 20/02/2003
Court Queen's Bench Division

Judge Eady J

Date of Judgment 20 Feb 2003


Summary

Defamation – Justification – Fair comment – Issue estoppel – Abuse of process – Fair Trial – Freedom of Expression – Human rights – Article 6 – Article 10 – European Convention on Human Rights


Facts

The first Defendant bought a ready-made car kit from the Claimant. When he had difficulties with his purchase, he contacted the Claimant, who he found uninterested and unhelpful. The first Defendant took the Claimant to the Small Claims Court, where he obtained costs and a monetary judgment.

The second Defendant owned and edited a magazine, in which he published a letter written by the first Defendant detailing the problems he had had with the Claimant. The Claimant brought an action for libel. The Defendants relied on justification and fair comment. The Claimant applied to strike out the defences on the grounds of abuse of process and issue estoppel.


Issue

Whether the Defendants were prevented from raising the defences of justification and fair comment by reason of issue estoppel or abuse of process


Held

There was no issue estoppel. Preventing the Defendants from raising the defences of justification and fair comment would violate their rights under Article 6 and Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The application was dismissed.


Comment

The suggestion that the Defendants should have been prevented from expressing their dissatisfaction with the Claimant’s service because one of them had raised the issue in the Small Claims Court was robustly rejected by Eady J.


Instructing Solicitors

Clifford Chance for the Claimant. Cannings Connolly for the Defendants.