Keoghs Insight

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Another successful defamation defence leaves claimant rattled

Blogs21/01/2020

Sunner v Dealz and Lodge Services (Dublin) Limited

Hot on the heels of an important win in Fowler v Marks & Spencer (Ireland) Limited, Keoghs Corporate Risks retail team (represented by Miley & Miley in Republic of Ireland) has secured another key defence of a defamation claim in the Irish courts, this time for Poundland (T/A Dealz).

The claim

In Sunner v Dealz and Lodge Services (Dublin) Limited, the claimant was seen taking a baby rattle from a shelf and giving it to her child.

Having noted this, the security staff approached her as she left the store and asked if she intended to pay for the toy. However the claimant denied taking it and the rattle was later found on another shelf. A claim of €75,000 was submitted for defamation and false imprisonment. 

The defence

The matter proceeded to trial with both defendants (the retailer and the security firm) relying on the defence of qualified privilege, given that no malice was involved.

Referencing the Supreme Court decision in the case of McCormack v Olsthoorn (2004), it was argued that there was nothing inherently wrong with the store challenging the claimant in circumstances where she had been seen ripping open company goods in suspicious circumstances. It was also jointly submitted that there was simply no evidence of false imprisonment, the claimant having departed the store by her own volition, nor was there any evidence of assault or restraint of her liberty. As a result an Order was sought to dismiss the claim. 

The judgment

Eventually Justice Linnane dismissed the claim saying she was not satisfied that the claimant had established any case of her being defamed, adding that she was the author of her own misfortune by giving the rattle to her child in the first place. 

Reflecting the sentiment of the Fowler v M&S judgment, and providing further encouragement for future defences, Justice Linnane also stated that people should stop running to their solicitors for this type of claim and that in such cases unsuccessful claimants should pay the legal costs of defendants.   

Kendrah Graham, Keoghs Corporate Risks Legal Director, commented;

“Both the Keoghs retail team and our client are delighted with this result given the difficulty of defending defamation claims in ROI. The comments made by Circuit Judge Jacqueline Linnane in the Circuit Civil Court also provides hope that the courts will provide further support when defending future claims.”