Credit report not defamatory

In a judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Jay determined preliminary issues in a libel claim brought in respect of a credit report about the Claimant, Triaster Limited, published by Dun & Bradstreet Limited. The Claimant contended that the report whether alone, or when read with a Guide to the Defendant’s rating system, bore a factual defamatory meaning that the Claimant “was a serious credit risk and its creditworthiness was poor” and “its financial and trading position was such that there was a real risk it would fail owing creditors money within the next 12 months”.

The Defendant argued that the words did not bear the Claimant’s meaning, and were not defamatory at common law, alternatively if there was a defamatory meaning in relation to risk of business failure, it was opinion.

The Judge rejected the Claimant’s pleaded meanings and found that the natural and ordinary and innuendo meaning of the Report was that: “with a D&B rating of D3 and a D&B failure score of 37 out of 100, there was a greater than average risk that the Claimant’s business would fail (as defined in the guide) within the next 12 months because 22% of businesses had a higher risk, this amounted to a “moderate probability” of failure, and that the likely incidence of failure within the next 12 months was 1.79%”.

The court found that the meaning was factual save for the words “moderate probability” which were opinion. The meaning was not defamatory at common law. The claim was dismissed.

Kate Wilson, instructed by Pennington Manches LLP acted for the Claimant; Victoria Jolliffe, instructed by Brandsmiths, acted for the Defendant. 

The judgment is available here.