Tinkler v Ferguson: court strikes out malicious falsehood claim

Litigation over Stobart Group Stock Exchange announcement is struck out

The High Court has struck out a malicious falsehood action brought by a former executive director of Stobart Group Limited (“Stobart”) over the publication of an announcement by the company on the London Stock Exchange’s Regulatory News Service.

The proceedings arose from a dispute over Stobart’s chairmanship. The Claimant favoured the removal of the then incumbent, the First Defendant, whom the remaining four Defendants supported. Matters came to a head, and on 29 May 2018 Stobart’s “Ongoing Board”, which was defined to include the Defendants, published an announcement concerning the Claimant’s actions. The Claimant issued proceedings in libel and malicious falsehood the following week.

The libel claim was ultimately abandoned, and the Defendants sought an order staying or striking out the remaining action on several bases, including that it would involve re-litigating separate, concluded proceedings between Stobart and the Claimant in the Commercial Court, or a collateral attack on the decision in those proceedings.

Nicklin J handed down judgment in the Defendants’ favour on 8 June 2020. They succeeded on their primary ground, although the Judge also held that the claim should be struck out on the basis that in failing to allege special damage, or advance a reasonably arguable or properly particularised case under s.3(1), Defamation Act 1952, it disclosed no reasonable grounds for being brought.

The judgment can be downloaded from the ‘Files‘ link below.

5RB‘s Andrew Caldecott QC and Jacob Dean, instructed by Herbert Smith Freehills, acted for the Defendants.

A 5RB case report can be found here.