The defendant published an article accusing the plaintiff of theft. Not having funds to launch a claim in libel, the plaintiff obtained legal aid to claim in malicious falsehood. She now appealed against a strike out of that claim.
Held: A claim in malicious falsehood was a possible and proper alternative to a libel claim. In this case the complaint was as to an allegation of theft from an employer.
Where damages are awarded under s.3 of the Defamation Act 1952 they should not be nominal, since such an award would defeat the purpose of the section.
Sir Donald Nicholls VC said: ‘When more than one cause of action is available to him, a plaintiff may choose which he will pursue . . He may pursue one to the exclusion of another, even though a defence available in one cause of action is not available in another. Indeed, the availability of a defence in one cause of action but not another may be the very reason why a plaintiff eschews the one and prefers the other . . I have never heard it suggested before that a plaintiff is not entitled to proceed in this way . . I have never heard it suggested that that he must pursue the most appropriate remedy, and that if he does not do so he is at risk of having his action struck out as a misuse of the court’s procedures’.
and ‘The remedy provided by the law for words which injure a person’s reputation is defamation. Words may also injure a person without damaging his reputation. An example would be a claim that the seller of goods or land is not the true owner. Another example would be a false assertion that a person has closed down his business. Such claims would not necessarily damage the reputation of those concerned. The remedy provided for this is malicious falsehood, sometimes called injurious falsehood or trade libel. This cause of action embraces particular types of malicious falsehood such as slander of title and slander of goods, but it is not confined to those headings.’
Sir Donald Nicholls VC, Butler-Sloss LJ, Sir Michael Kerr
Gazette 28-Oct-1992,  1 WLR 337,  EWCA Civ 9,  1 All ER 897
Defamation Act 1952 3
England and Wales
Cited – Rothermere v Times Newspapers Ltd CA 1973
The court considered whether to order a defamation trial to be heard by judge alone, rather than before a jury.
Held: The criterion that the trial requires a prolonged examination of documents is basic and must be strictly satisfied, and it is . .
Applied – Circuit Systems Ltd (In Liquidation) and Another v Zuken Redac (Uk) Ltd CA 5-Apr-1996
The assignment of a debt by a company in liquidation to a significant shareholder, in order to allow him to make an application for legal aid, and to avoid having to give security for costs and to allow the action to proceed was not unlawful, but . .
Cited – Tesco Stores Ltd v Guardian News and Media Ltd and Another QBD 29-Jul-2008
The defendant newspaper published articles making allegations as to the use of offshore tax avoidance arrangements. The claimant sought damages also in malicious falsehood. The defendants sought to rely on an offer of amends served only a few . .
Cited – Ajinomoto Sweeteners Europe Sas v Asda Stores Ltd CA 2-Jun-2010
The claimant sold a sweetener ingredient. The defendant shop advertised its own health foods range with the label ‘no hidden nasties’ and in a situation which, the claimant said, suggested that its ingredient was a ‘nasty’, and it claimed under . .
Cited – RST v UVW QBD 11-Sep-2009
The applicant sought an interim and without notice injunction preventing the defendant from disclosing confidential information covered by an agreement between the parties.
Held: The order was made on a without notice application because there . .
Cited – Citation Plc v Ellis Whittam Ltd CA 8-Mar-2013
The parties competed in providing employment law services. The claimant complained of slanderous comments said to have been made by the defendant in discussions with a firm of solicitors seeking to select a firm. The claimant now appealed against . .
Cited – Kpohraror v Woolwich Building Society CA 1996
The Society, acting as a bank, had at first failed to pay its customer’s cheque for andpound;4,550, even though there were sufficient funds. The bank said that it had been reported lost. The customer sought damages to his business reputation.
Torts – Other, Defamation, Damages
Updated: 11 November 2021; Ref: scu.82640