Lewis v Daily Telegraph Ltd; Rubber Improvement Ltd v Daily Telegraph Ltd; Rubber Improvement Ltd v Associated Newspapers Ltd

JurisdictionUK Non-devolved
Judgment Date1962
Date1962
CourtHouse of Lords
[HOUSE OF LORDS.] RUBBER IMPROVEMENT LTD. AND ANOTHER APPELLANTS; AND DAILY TELEGRAPH LTD. RESPONDENTS. SAME APPELLANTS; AND ASSOCIATED NEWSPAPERS LTD. RESPONDENTS. [ON APPEAL FROM LEWIS v. DAILY TELEGRAPH LTD.] 1962 Dec. 3, 4, 5, 6, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19. 1963 Mar. 26. LORD REID, LORD JENKINS, LORD MORRIS OF BORTH-Y-GEST, LORD HODSON and LORD DEVLIN.

Libel and Slander - Justification - Suspicion of crime - Statement that Fraud Squad inquiring into affairs of limited company - Ordinary meaning of words admitted to be defamatory, but justified - Proof of police inquiry in progress at date of report - Whether justification - Whether words reasonably capable of meaning plaintiffs guilty of fraud. - Libel and Slander - Pleadings - Innuendo - Not supported by extrinsic facts - Duty to withdarw unproved innuendo from jury - Not applicable if innuendo relying only on words used - Whether implied meaning should be pleaded - R.S.C., Ord. 19, r. 6 (2). - Libel and Slander - Damages for libel - Assessment by jury - Libel of limited company and chairman - No plea of special damage - No proof of general loss of business - High award of damages - Considerations justifying interference with award by appellate court - Tax position relevant to question of excessive or inadequate award of damages - Similar libels in two newspapers - Defamation Act, 1952 (15 & 16 Geo. 6 & 1 Eliz. 2, c. 66), s. 12. - Damages - Tax element - Libel - Application of Gourley's case.

On December 23, 1958, two national newspapers published on their front pages paragraphs headed respectively “Inquiry on Firm by City Police” and “Fraud Squad Probe Firm,” which stated in substance that the police were inquiring into the affairs of a limited company of which one J. L. was chairman. He issued a statement denying that such inquiry was being made and he and the company issued writs against the owners of each newspaper, the actions of the chairman and the company being later consolidated against each newspaper. The statements of claim alleged that the words were defamatory in their ordinary and natural meaning. By paragraph 4 it was pleaded in each case that the words meant and were understood to mean that the plaintiffs had been guilty of or were suspected by the police of being guilty of fraud or dishonesty. Particulars given pursuant to R.S.C., Ord. 19, r. 6 (2), did not support the meaning pleaded in paragraph 4 by extrinsic facts but were inferences from the words complained of. No plea of special damage was included. The defendants did not deny that the words in their ordinary meaning were defamatory but pleaded justification, namely, that it was true that on December 23, 1958, the police were inquiring into the affairs of the company of which J. L. was chairman. They denied that the words meant or were capable of meaning that the plaintiffs were guilty of or suspected of fraud.

At the trials before Salmon J. and juries, which took place successively, evidence was given for both parties which showed that on December 23, 1958, the police, at the instigation of a shareholder, were inquiring into the affairs of the company of which J. L. was chairman. No evidence of financial loss as a result of the publication was put before the jury, though considerable loss was suggested by J. L.

At the conclusion of the evidence and in the absence of the jury the judge rejected a submission for the defendants that the innuendo meaning should be withdrawn from the jury, since it was unsupported by any extrinsic facts, and that only the ordinary meaning, admittedly defamatory but justified, should be put to the jury. He directed the jury that the words could bear the meaning alleged in the innuendo and that they might properly so find. He did not point out the absence of any cogent evidence as to financial loss; and he left to the jury only two questions, namely, (1) whether they found for the plaintiffs or for the defendants, and (2) if for the plaintiffs, what sums of damages. The jury in the first action returned verdicts of £25,000 damages for the chairman and £75,000 for the company; and in the second action two days later, in which there were factors which a jury might be entitled to take into account as aggravating the damages, the jury awarded the chairman £17,000 damages and the company £100,000:—

Held, (1) that in a libel action the judge must rule whether the words are capable of bearing each of the defamatory meanings, if there be more than one, put forward by the plaintiff, whether expressly pleaded or not, if such meaning is alleged to be inferred from the natural and ordinary meaning of the words used (post, pp. 1068, 1069, 1077, 1096).

(2) That (Lord Morris dissenting) from the words in question in their natural and ordinary meaning an ordinary man without special knowledge would not have inferred that the appellant was guilty of fraud and accordingly the jury should have been directed that they were not capable of bearing that particular meaning (post, pp. 1069, 1070, 1086, 1096).

Per Lord Morris. Where no innuendo is pleaded, it is not essential for the plaintiff to plead what he says are the implied meanings of the words (post, pp. 1076, 1077).

Per Lord Hodson. It is desirable that the pleader should allege in his statement of claim what the words in their actual and ordinary meaning convey provided he makes it clear that he is not relying upon a true innuendo which gives a separate cause of action and requires a separate verdict from the jury (post, p. 1086).

Per Lord Devlin. The ordinary meaning of words and the meaning enlarged by innuendo give rise to separate causes of action, but there has also been a divergence between the popular and the legal meaning of “innuendo.” The natural and ordinary meaning of words for the purposes of defamation is not their natural and ordinary meaning for other purposes of law. There must be added to the implications which a court is prepared to make as a matter of construction all such insinuations and innuendos as could reasonably be read into them by the ordinary man. Consequently, there must be three paragraphs in a statement of claim: (1) a paragraph setting out the defamatory words; (2) if they do not speak for themselves, a paragraph setting out those innuendoes and indirect meanings going beyond their literal meaning, which the pleader claims to be inherent in them; and (3) if there is the necessary material a paragraph pleading a secondary meaning or legal innuendo supported by particulars under R.S.C., Ord. 19, r. 6 (2) (post, p. 1091).

Capital and Counties Bank Ltd. v. George Henty & Sons (1882) 7 App.Cas. 741, H.L.; Grubb v. Bristol United Press Ltd. [1963] 1 Q.B. 309; [1962] 3 W.L.R. 25; [1962] 2 All E.R. 380, C.A., and Sim v. Stretch (1936) 52 T.L.R. 669; [1936] 2 All E.R. 1237, C.A. applied.

Loughans v. Odhams Press Ltd. [1963] 1 Q.B. 299; [1962] 2 W.L.R. 692; [1962] 1 All E.R. 404, C.A. distinguished.

Turner v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Ltd. (1950) 66 T.L.R. (Pt. 1) 342; [1950] 1 All E.R. 449, H.L.; Cookson v. Harewood [1932] 2 K.B. 478n., C.A.; and Stubbs Ltd. v. Russell [1913] A.C. 386; 29 T.L.R. 409, H.L., considered.

(3) That the damages awarded in each case were excessive.

In such a case, pursuant to section 12 of the Defamation Act, 1952, each jury should be directed to consider how far the damage suffered by the plaintiffs can reasonably be attributed solely to the libel with which they are concerned, and how far it ought to be regarded as the joint result of the two libels, and must bear in mind that the plaintiffs ought not to be compensated twice for the same loss (post, pp. 1070, 1071).

In assessing damages for loss of profit arising from libel the jury should be directed to make an allowance for the obligation to pay income tax or surtax out of it had it been earned (post, pp. 1071, 1072).

British Transport Commission v. Gourley [1956] A.C. 185; [1956] 2 W.L.R. 41; [1956] 3 All E.R. 796, H.L., applied.

(4) That, accordingly, a new trial of each action should be ordered.

Decision of the Court of Appeal [1963] 1 Q.B. 340; [1962] 3 W.L.R. 50; [1962] 2 All E.R. 698, C.A. affirmed.

APPEAL from the Court of Appeal (Holroyd Pearce and Davies L.JJ. and Havers J.).

The first appeal was made by leave of the Court of Appeal by the appellants, Rubber Improvement Ltd. and John Lewis, who were the plaintiffs in two consolidated actions, from an order of the Court of Appeal dated April 4, 1962, whereby the verdicts given and the judgments entered for the respective plaintiffs against the defendants, Daily Telegraph Ltd., the present respondents, for £100,000 (being as to £75,000 for Rubber Improvement Ltd. and as to £25,000 for John Lewis) on the trial of these actions before Salmon J. and a jury on July 18 and 19, 1961, were wholly set aside and a new trial ordered. The second appeal was made by leave of the Court of Appeal by the same appellants, who were the plaintiffs in two other consolidated actions, from an order of the Court of Appeal dated April 4, 1962, whereby the verdicts given and the judgments entered for the respective plaintiffs against the defendants, Associated Newspapers Ltd., the present respondents, for £117,000 (being as to £100,000 for Rubber Improvements Ltd. and as to £17,000 for John Lewis) on the trial of these actions before Salmon J. and a jury on July 20 and 21, 1961, were wholly set aside and a new trial ordered.

The facts are set out in their Lordships' opinions.

Helenus Milmo Q.C. and P. Colin Duncan for the appellants.

Neville Faulks Q.C. and Hugh Davidson for the respondents, Daily Telegraph Ltd.

Neville Faulks Q.C. and David Hirst for the respondents, Associated Newspapers Ltd.

The following authorities, besides those referred to in their lordships' opinions, were cited in argument: M'Pherson v. DanielsF1; Hennessy v. WrightF2; Monson v. Tussauds' Ltd.F3; Cadam v. Beaverbrook Newspapers Ltd.F4; Bruce v. Odhams Press Ltd.F5; Hough v. London...

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