Warren v The Random House Group Ltd (No.3)
Reference:  EWHC 3062 (QB)
Court: Queen's Bench Division
Judge: Eady J
Date of judgment: 20 Dec 2007
Summary: Defamation - Libel - Defences - Justification - Lucas-Box meaning - Whether Lucas-Box meaning severable and distinct from meaning complained of - Whether proportionate to allow issues raised by Lucas-Box meaning to be tried
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Desmond Browne QC - Leading Counsel (Defendant)
Adrienne Page QC - Leading Counsel (Claimant)
Instructing Solicitors: Carter-Ruck for the Claimant; Simons Muirhead & Burton for the Defendant
C brought a libel claim in respect of three allegations in the book “Ricky Hatton: The Hitman, My Story”, published by D. One of the allegations was that he had lied to the readers of the News of the World about the amount of money which Mr Hatton had earned whilst C had managed him. D sought to justify the words complained of by reference to a Lucas Box meaning to the effect that C had lied about Mr Hatton’s earnings in support of a dishonest claim to have had a contract with Mr Hatton to act as his promoter. C contended that this meaning was impermissibly wide and that it would be disproportionate to litigate the issues it raised, and that it should therefore be struck out.
Was it permissible for D to include the material about the disputed contract between C and Mr Hatton as part of its justification defence?
Finding for C:
The meaning of which C complained (lying about Mr Hatton’s earnings) was distinct from the contractual dispute and therefore the Lucas-Box meaning relying on the contractual dispute and particulars to the same effect were struck out. Furthermore, it would have been wholly disproportionate and unnecessarily expensive to allow the side-issue about the contract to be debated at trial.
This case is one of many in which the court has adjudicated upon the proper breadth of a justification defence.