Duke of Brunswick v Harmer: QBD 2 Nov 1849

On 19 September 1830 an article was published in the Weekly Dispatch. The limitation period for libel was six years. The article defamed the Duke of Brunswick. Seventeen years after its publication an agent of the Duke purchased a back number containing the article from the Weekly Dispatch’s office. Another copy was obtained from the British Museum. The Duke sued on those two publications. The defendant contended that the cause of action was time barred, relying on the original publication date.
Held: The delivery of a copy of the newspaper to the plaintiff’s agent constituted a separate publication in respect of which suit could be brought, and it was not necessary to tell the jury, in estimating the damages as to such matter, to take into consideration the fact that the only publication proved had been the sale to the agent: ‘The defendant, who, on the application of a stranger, delivers to him the writing which libels a third person, publishes the libellous matter to him, though he may have been sent for the purpose of procuring the work by that third person. So far as in him lies, he lowers the reputation of the principal in the mind of the agent, which, although that of an agent, is as capable of being affected by the assertions as if he were a stranger. The act is complete by the delivery: and its legal character is not altered, either by the plaintiff’s procurement or by the subsequent handing over of the writing to him.’

Coleridge J
(1849) 14 QB 185, [1849] EngR 915, (1849) 117 ER 75
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedLoutchansky v The Times Newspapers Ltd and Others (Nos 2 to 5) CA 5-Dec-2001
Two actions for defamation were brought by the claimant against the defendant. The publication reported in detail allegations made against the claimant of criminal activities including money-laundering on a vast scale. They admitted the defamatory . .
CitedGutnick v Dow Jones 10-Dec-2002
(High Court of Australia) The Court rejected a challenge, in the context of Internet libel, to the applicability of such established principles as that vouchsafed in Duke of Brunswick: ‘It was suggested that the World Wide Web was different from . .
No longer Good lawDow Jones and Co Inc v Jameel CA 3-Feb-2005
Presumption of Damage in Defamation is rebuttable
The defendant complained that the presumption in English law that the victim of a libel had suffered damage was incompatible with his right to a fair trial. They said the statements complained of were repetitions of statements made by US . .
MentionedSteinberg v Pritchard Englefield (A Firm) and Another CA 3-Mar-2005
The defendant appealed dismissal of his defence to an action in defamation.
Held: The court proceeded in his absence, discerning two grounds of appeal from the papers. He had suggested that he awaited pro bono representation but was by . .
CitedBerezovsky v Forbes Inc and Michaels; Glouchkov v Same HL 16-May-2000
Plaintiffs who lived in Russia sought damages for defamation against an American magazine with a small distribution in England. Both plaintiffs had real connections with and reputations in England. A judgment in Russia would do nothing to repair the . .
See AlsoThe Duke Of Brunswick v Harmer 21-Jun-1850
If JH and MY be registered at the stamp office as ‘the sole proprietors’ of a newspaper, ‘that is to say, the said JH as legal owner as mortgagee, and MY as owner of the equity of redemption,’ this is sufficient to fix JH as a proprietor of the . .
CitedTimes Newspapers Ltd (Nos. 1 And 2) v The United Kingdom ECHR 10-Mar-2009
The applicant alleged that the rule under United Kingdom law whereby each time material is downloaded from the Internet a new cause of action in libel proceedings accrued (‘the Internet publication rule’) constituted an unjustifiable and . .
OutmodedGregoire v GP Putnam’s Sons 1948
(New York Court of Appeals) A book had been placed on sale in 1941, but was still being reprinted and sold in 1946.
Held: The rule in Duke of Brunswick v Harmer was formulated ‘in an era which long antedated the modern process of mass . .
CitedFlood v Times Newspapers Ltd QBD 2-Oct-2009
The defendant had published a story in its newspaper. At that time it attracted Reynolds qualified privilege. After the circumstances changed, the paper offered an updating item. That offer was rejected as inadequate.
Held: The qualified . .
MentionedHays Plc v Hartley QBD 17-May-2010
Mr Hartley operated a news agency, and provided to the publisher of the Sunday Mirror, MGN Ltd, allegations of racism that had been levelled at the claimant company by former employees. The allegations were reported in an article headed ”KKK . .
CitedReed Elsevier Uk Ltd (T/A Lexisnexis) and Another v Bewry CA 30-Oct-2014
Appeal from a decision granting the claimant’s application made pursuant to section 32A of the Limitation Act 1980 to disapply the limitation period in his proceedings for libel and dismissing the defendants’ application to strike out the claimant’s . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Defamation, Limitation, Damages

Leading Case

Updated: 12 January 2022; Ref: scu.181216

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