High Court strikes out libel claim for abuse of process article banner image

In the recent case of Liberty Fashion Wears Ltd v Primark Stores Ltd, the High Court has struck out a libel claim as an abuse of process following the principles in Jameel v Dow Jones & C Inc [2005] EWCA Civ 75. The defendant was a clothing retailer, which sold items made in Bangladesh by the claimant. Following the collapse of a factory building in Bangladesh with the loss of more than 1,000 lives, the defendant, and other retailers, required safety inspections at other factories.

One of the claimant’s buildings was found to be unsafe, and when the claimant failed to make the necessary repairs, the defendant stopped trading with it. The defendant issued a press release outlining its position and, together with other retailers, published a similar statement on a website. The claimant claimed that both were defamatory.

The judge found that the allegedly defamatory words had not been greatly viewed, and that publication in the jurisdiction had been small. Further, the claimant had not complained about either statement until about a year after publication, whereas a claimant who was genuinely concerned would have wished to move swiftly to vindicate their good name. Moreover, the particulars of claim did not assert any trading reputation within the jurisdiction, and the likely time and cost of litigating the claim were hugely disproportionate to the likely amount of the damages which the claimant would, if successful, be awarded.

Chris Harper is a partner and head of the dispute resolution team in Exeter. He specialises in commercial litigation and is named as a leader in his field by independent guides to the legal profession Legal 500 and Chambers. To contact Chris please call 01392 210700 or email drx@stephens-scown.co.uk.