Morris v Sanders Universal Products

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
Judgment Date04 December 1953
Judgment citation (vLex)[1953] EWCA Civ J1204-1
CourtCourt of Appeal
Date04 December 1953
Morris and Anr.
Sandess Universal Products

[1953] EWCA Civ J1204-1


Lord Justice Jenkins


Lord Justice Morris

In The Supreme Court of Judicature

Court of Appeal

Mr GUY T. ALDOUS (instructed by Messrs Stilgoes) appeared on behalf of the Appellants.

Mr JOHN F. MARNAN (instructed by Messrs Franks, Charlesly & Leighton) appeared on behalf of the Respondents.


This is an appeal from an Order of the Lord Chief Justice dated the 29th October, 1953, deciding against the Defendants in the action a matter raised as a preliminary point of law under the Rules of the Supreme Court, Order 25, Rule 2. The action is an action for libel, and the preliminary question raised is not one on which recourse is usually had to that Rule.


The nature of the action is this: The Plaintiffs, a Mr Morris and a Mr Blunk, are former employees of the Defendants, Sandess Universal Products; and, according to the Statement of Claim (which, for the present purpose, must be regarded as proved), paragraph 1, "The Defendants are distributors and retailers of carbon papers, inked ribbons and similar articles, and until on or about the 20th day of June 1952 employed each of the Plaintiffs as a sales manager each at a weekly salary of £18. 10. 0. with commission". Then in paragraph 2 of the Statement of Claim it is alleged that on or about the 20th June, 1952, "each of the Plaintiffs agreed orally with the Defendants to determine their respective employments by the Defendants, by the Plaintiffs tendering their resignations and the Defendants accepting the same". Then it is alleged by paragraph 3 that at all material times the Defendants well knew that it was the intention of the Plaintiffs to set up in business together as therein mentioned. Paragraph 4 deals with the alleged libel, and it is in these terms: "On and after the said 20th June, 1952, the Defendants falsely and maliciously wrote and published in a circular letter of and concerning the first Plaintiff and of and concerning him in the way of his said business the words following, that is to say: 'Sandess Universal Products. Sandess Carbon Papers, Inked Ribbons, Stencils & Duplicating Inks. Dear Sirs, We wish to bringto your notice the fact that we have dismissed Mr Morris (meaning the first Plaintiff) from our employ, he having been our Representative in your area, and finally, that he has now no connection whatsoever with our Company. Yours faithfully, Sandess Universal Products'." Then there are some particulars of the circulation of that document. "The said words were published by posting the circular letter to" some three or four named people "and to many score others, potential customers of the first Plaintiff in the said business, and whether or not such publishees were in fact, as alleged in the said circular letter, situate in the area for which the first Plaintiff had been the Defendants' representative". Then paragraph 5: "By the said words the Defendants meant and were understood to mean that they had dismissed the first Plaintiff from their employment against his will, and that the first Plaintiff had been guilty of some conduct entitling the Defendants to terminate his employment without notice or salary in lieu, or that the circumstances of the termination of the first Plaintiff's employment were such as to be discreditable to the first Plaintiff". Then there is an allegation in paragraph 6 of the same facts mutatis mutandis with respect to the second Plaintiff, and paragraph 7 applies what is said in paragraph 5 to his case.


There was an application for particulars under paragraphs 5 and 7 of the statement of Claim "of the facts and matters upon which the Plaintiffs rely in support of their allegations that the words set out in paragraph 4 of the Statement of Claim were used in the sense or had the meanings alleged in paragraphs 5 and 7 thereof". The particulars given were these: "Under paragraph 5. Under this paragraph the first Plaintiff will rely upon asecondary meaning of the word 'dismissed' and will contend that such a secondary meaning is 'to dismiss from an employment against the will of the employee, or to dismiss an employee who has been guilty of some conduct entitling the employer to terminate his employment without notice or salary in lieu, or to dismiss an employee in circumstances such as to be discreditable to the employee' and, further, that in the particular facts and circumstances set forth in paragraph 1 and the first sentence of the Particulars to paragraph 4 of the Statement of Claim the words complained of were calculated to convey and did convey such meaning with regard to the dismissal of the first Plaintiff". Then, under paragraph 7, the same particulars are relied on with respect to the second Plaintiff.


That is the Statement of Claim; and on the 7th July, 1953, an Order was obtained under Order 25, Rule 2, for the trial of a preliminary point of law. The Order was "that there shall be tried as a preliminary point of law the issue whether the words complained of in the Statement of Claim have in their ordinary signification any defamatory meaning or are capable of bearing the alleged defamatory meaning other than their ordinary meaning having regard to the facts and matters relied upon herein".


As I have said, the matter came before the Lord Chief Justice, and he expressed the opinion that the words "dismissed from our employ" in a letter of this sort were capable of a defamatory meaning; whether they were defamatory or not was not for him to decide, but for a jury. From that decision, the Defendants, represented by Mr Aldous, now appeal.


Mr Aldous puts his case in this way: He says, in effect, that the particulars given of the facts andcircumstances relied on by the Plaintiffs as giving the words complained of any meaning other than their usual meaning really add nothing to what is alleged in the Statement of Claim. So far, I am disposed to agree with him. He says further that, taking simply, as it stands, the letter containing the alleged libel and construing the language used according to its ordinary signification, it is incapable of a defamatory meaning. In support of his argument, he has referred us to a number of cases. The first is Nevill v. Fine Art and General Insurance Company, 1897 Appeal Cases, page 68. The facts in that case, very briefly, were that the appellant...

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15 cases
  • Drummond-Jackson v British Medical Association
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • 13 February 1970
    ...they are defamatory - see Turner v. Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Ltd., (1950) 1 A.E.R. 449, per Lord Sorter at page 454; Morris v. Sanders Universal Products, (1954) 1 W.L.R. 67, per Lord Justice Jenkins at page 73. In such circumstances it would no doubt be proper to strike out the acti......
  • Duffy v News Group Newspapers Ltd (No. 2)
    • Ireland
    • Supreme Court
    • 1 January 1994
  • Deandra Chung v Future Services International Ltd and Another
    • Jamaica
    • Court of Appeal (Jamaica)
    • 13 June 2014
    ...was presented at the trial’. 33 Nevill v Fine Art and General Insurance Co was distinguished by the Court of Appeal in Morris and Another v Sandess Universal Products [1954] 1 All ER 47. In that case, the defendants, who were distributors and retailers of office supplies, employed each of t......
  • Anne Lim Keng See v The New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd
    • Malaysia
    • Court of Appeal (Malaysia)
    • Invalid date
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5 books & journal articles
  • Cases referred to in 1983
    • Nigeria
    • DSC Publications Online Nigerian Supreme Court Cases. 1983 Preliminary Sections
    • 22 November 2022
    ...Press Ltd. & Anor. (1971) 2 All E.R. 1156. 23 Morinatu Oduka v. Kasumu (1968) N.M.L.R. 28. 136 Morris v. Sandess Universe Products (1954) 1 All E.R. 47. 23 Mraz v. The Queen (1954-56) 93 C.L.R. 493, 514. 105 Mrs Aigbe v. Bishop John Edokpolor 1977 2 S C 1 399 Muhammadu Arab v. Bauchi Native......
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    • Nigeria
    • DSC Publications Online Nigerian Supreme Court Cases. 1979 Preliminary Sections
    • 17 November 2022
    ...93 Morgan v. Simpson (1975) 1 Q.B. 151. 93 Morris & Anor. v. Sandless Universal Products Ltd. (1954) 1 All E R 47 ......................................................................................................... Moses Okoro v. The Police (1953) 14 W.A.C.A. 370. 62 Neville v. Fine Ar......
    • Nigeria
    • DSC Publications Online Nigerian Supreme Court Cases. 1983 Cases reported in 1983
    • 22 November 2022
    ...2. Cassidy v. Daily Mirror Newspapers (1929) 2 K.B. 331. 3. Cook v. Ward (1830) 4 Moo & p.111. 4. Morris v. Sandess Universe Products (1954) 1 All E.R. 47. 5. Morgan v. Odhams Press Ltd. & Anor. (1971) 2 All E.R. 1156. 6. Beswick v. Smith (108) Times L.R. 67. 35 7. Capital and Counties Bank......
  • Table of Cases
    • Nigeria
    • DSC Publications Online Sasegbon’s Judicial Dictionary of Nigerian Law. First edition Preliminary Sections Volume 3
    • 6 February 2019
    ...425 Morgan v. Odham Press (1971) 1 W.L.R. 1239…………..........………..……319 Morris v. Sandess Universal Products Ltd . (1954) 1 All E.R. 47..…......……319 Moses v. State (2006) 11 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 992) 458……........................…….20, 21 Motanya v. Elinwa (1994) 7 N.W.L.R. (Pt. 356) 252; (1994) 7......
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