Be Careful What You Write Down!

This is not a case that the TSP Dispute Resolution team dealt with; we publish the details as an example of the problems that can occur when procedures are not correctly followed.

A sent B a personal email which contained a defamatory comment about C.

B forwarded the email to a group of people without A’s consent. The group included C.

A sent an email to the group apologising to C but C was not satisfied.

A offered to pay C some compensation. This was ignored.

C wanted his day in court and he sued A. He sacked his solicitors and had the details of his claim prepared by a barrister, but they did not follow the courts’ rules and procedures for defamation claims.

A’s solicitors gave C the chance to correct the claim.

A tried to amend the claim but it was still flawed.

Both sides’ legal costs were increasing rapidly and at the point of A applying to the court for the claim to be struck out for non-compliance with the rules A and C settled their dispute by each walking away and paying their own costs.

Lesson for A: A personal email which contains a defamatory statement about C is a publication if it is sent to someone other than C, even if C doesn’t know about it. Emails are always high risk because of the chance of further publication by accident.

Lesson for C : Defamation claims are very specialised and follow strict procedural rules. Not everyone has their day in court. Specialist advice is recommended before proceedings are issued.

If you need help with a defamation case please contact Judith Winward, a solicitor in our Dispute Resolution team.