Pullman v Hill and Co: CA 1891

The plaintiff claimed publication of a defamation when the defendant was said to have dictated it to his typist.
Held: That was sufficient publication. The Court considered what would amount to publication in the law of defamation.
Lord Esher MR said: ‘The first question is, assuming the letter to contain defamatory matter, there has been a publication of it. What is the meaning of ‘publication’? The making known of the defamatory matter after it has been written to some person other than the person of whom it is written’
. . And: ‘If the writer of a letter shews it to his own clerk in order that the clerk may copy it for him, is that a publication of the letter? Certainly it is shewing it to a third person; the writer cannot say to the person to whom the letter is addressed, ‘I have shewn it to you and to no one else’. I cannot, therefore, feel any doubt that, if the writer of a letter shews it to any person other than the person to whom it is written, he publishes it. If he wishes not to publish it, he must, so far as he possibly can, keep it to himself, or he must send it himself straight to the person to whom it is written. There was therefore, in this case a publication to the type-writer.’
. . And: where ‘the writer of a letter locks it up in his own desk, and a thief comes and breaks open the desk and takes away the letter and makes it contents known . . ‘ no intentional publication by the author occurs.
As to qualified privilege, Lord Esher MR said: ‘An occasion is privileged when the person who makes the communication has a moral duty to make it to the person to whom he does make it, and the person who receives it has an interest in hearing it. Both these conditions must exist in order that the occasion may be privileged.’
As to whether a publication had been in the ordinary course of business’, Lord Esher MR said: ‘Here a communication was made by the defendant’s Managing Director to type writer. Moreover, the letter was directed to the plaintiff’s firm and opened by one of their clerks. The defendants placed the letter out of their control and took no means to prevent it being opened by the plaintiff’s clerks. In my opinion, therefore, there was a publication of the letter, not only to the typewriter but also to the clerks of the plaintiff’s firm.’


Lord Esher MR, Lopez LJ


[1891] 1 QB 524


England and Wales


AppliedDay v Bream 1837
A printed handbill, contained imputations on the plaintiff clearly libellous. The plaintiff lived at Marlborough; the defendant was the porter of the coach-office at that place, and it was his business to carry out and deliver the parcels that came . .

Cited by:

CitedGodfrey v Demon Internet Limited QBD 26-Mar-1999
An Internet Service Provider who was re-distributing Usenet postings it had received, to its users in general, remained a publisher at common law, even though he was not such within the definitions of the Act, and it was therefore liable in . .
CitedJameel v Wall Street Journal Europe Sprl HL 11-Oct-2006
The House was asked as to the capacity of a limited company to sue for damage to its reputation, where it had no trading activity within the jurisdiction, and as to the extent of the Reynolds defence. The defendants/appellants had published an . .
CitedReynolds TD v Times Newspapers Ltd; Ruddock and Witherow CA 8-Jul-1998
The claimant, the former Taoiseach of Ireland sought damages after the defendant newspaper published an article falsely accusing him of duplicity. The paper said that his position meant that they should have the defence of quaified privilege . .
CitedWeller and Others v Associated Newspapers Ltd CA 20-Nov-2015
The three children of a musician complained of the publication of photographs taken of them in a public place in California. . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 12 April 2022; Ref: scu.194306