30th May 2002
Application by the claimant (‘M’) to re-amend the particulars of claim to set out what she alleged to be the natural and ordinary meaning of the words complained of. M was a nanny formerly employed by the Prime Minister’s family. She had written a book about her experiences despite having signed a confidentiality agreement. The Blairs sought and obtained an injunction against publication of material from the book in the Mail on Sunday. The Daily Mail then published the article complained of about the dispute. The original meanings that M sought to attribute to the article (‘the lying meanings’) were that she had lied when she: (i) denied authorising the publication of material from the book by the Mail on Sunday; and (ii) claimed to be devastated by the Mail on Sunday article, the truth being that she had willingly cooperated in the disclosure of such material. By her proposed amendments M wished to allege that the natural and ordinary meanings of the words complained of were that she: (a) was prepared to sell to publishers a book about the Blair family; and (b) was prepared to offer the Mail on Sunday an option on serialisation in total disregard of her obligations of confidence (‘the breach of confidence meanings’). The defendant resisted the application on the grounds that M had both issued and served her claim at the last possible moment and that the application should be regarded as akin to an application to add a new cause of action after the expiry of the limitation period.
(1) This judgment should be read in conjunction with Mark v Associated Newspapers Ltd (2001) LTL 7/12/2001. (2) The breach of confidence meanings were fundamentally different from the lying meanings and represented a complete change of tack. It was remarkable that M had not sought to rely on the breach of confidence meanings from the outset. (3) However, although this court noted both the change of tack and M’s delay in issuing and serving the proceedings, the fact remained that the proceedings were still at an early stage and that there would be no prejudice to the defendant in allowing the amendments to be made. In those circumstances, it would be unjust not to allow the amendments.
Application allowed.For related proceedings see: Mark v Channel Four Television Corporation (2001) LTL 14/12/2001.
Although the claimant had waited until the last moment to issue and serve her libel claim and the meanings she now sought to introduce by amendment had always been open and obvious to her, it would be unjust not to allow the amendments where the proceedings were still at an early stage and no prejudice would be caused to the defendant.
Read the full transcript here.