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Court: High Court

Daily Telegraph apology for Melania Trump article not defamatory of author

Burleigh v Telegraph Media Group Limited [2020] EWHC 2359 (QB)

The High Court has issued a preliminary ruling holding that an apology published by the Defendant in The Daily Telegraph was not defamatory of the Claimant. The Claimant wrote an article about Mrs Melania Trump which was published by the Defendant in The Daily Telegraph in January 2019. Shortly after this, the Defendant published an […]

Court upholds lawfulness of Loans for Mortgage Interest scheme

JD and Vincent v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2020] EWHC 1976 (Admin)

As part of the coalition government’s welfare reforms, Support for Mortgage Interest, a benefit paid to assist those on other income-related benefits with the interest they were required to pay on their mortgage, was replaced with Loans for Mortgage Interest, which provides the same level of support, but which has to be repaid on sale of the relevant property or death. Two groups of disabled claimants brought challenges to the new scheme on the grounds that it was discriminatory contrary to Article 14 ECHR and under the Equality Act 2010, and for failure to comply with the public sector equality duty.

The first set of claimants were severely disabled women suffering from multiple sclerosis whose partners were in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, as well as one of their children. They contended that the scheme as a whole, alternatively the requirement to repay on sale failed, without objective and reasonable justification failed to treat differently disabled people with partners in receipt of CA and/or those with dependent children, contrary to the Thlimmenos principle under Article 14 ECHR, read together with Article 3 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In respect of this claim, the Court (Mrs Justice Andrews) held that the move from a benefit to a loan did not fall within the ambit of any Convention rights and so Article 14 was not engaged in that respect. Further, the Court did not consider that the Claimants were in a significantly different position to the comparator class, which includes many other people who would only be able to repay the loan on sale and for whom that could also cause hardship. The Court also considered that the best interests of children had been appropriately considered in accordance with the UNCRC.

The second claim was brought on behalf of a man with multiple physical and learning disabilities who lacks capacity. On his behalf it was contended that the automatic nature of the repayment on sale requirement discriminates against disabled people, or those at an enhanced risk of needing to move because of their disability-related needs. In respect of this claim, the Court considered that the automatic nature of the repayment on sale requirement was justified as not manifestly without reasonable foundation. It also held that disabled persons at enhanced risk of having to move was too nebulous a group to constitute a “status” for the purposes of Article 14 ECHR. The PSED challenge in both cases was rejected on the basis that the government had had the requisite due regard when formulating the new scheme.

Widow has real prospect of success in claim for negligence against company based in Bangladesh

Begum v Maran [2020] EWHC 1846 (QB)

This case involves the death of an employee whilst working on the demolition of a defunct oil tanker (“the vessel”) in the Zuma Enterprise Shipyard (“the yard”) in Chittagong (now Chattogram), Bangladesh. The deceased’s widow issued proceedings claiming damages for negligence under the Law Reform (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1934 and the Fatal Accidents Act 1976; alternatively, under Bangladeshi law. The scope of the proceedings has subsequently been broadened inasmuch as draft Amended Particulars of Claim advance a cause of action in restitution: more precisely, unjust enrichment.

Held: The claimant has a real prospect of succeeding in relation to her claim in negligence, however her claim in unjust enrichment is unsustainable. The the claimant has a real prospect of establishing that her claim is governed by English law and that if Bangladeshi law were to apply to the claim in tort, it would be statute-barred.

High Court rules service of Claim Form as ineffective, as served late.

Piepenbrock v Associated Newspapers Limited [2020] EWHC 1708 (QB)

This case discusses issues that can arise when a claimant leaves service of a Claim Form until the last moment. The Claimant issued an Application Notice seeking (1) relief from sanction under CPR 3.9; (2) correction of an error of procedure under CPR 3.10; (3) an order extending time for service of the Claim Form under CPR 7.6; (4) an order for service by an alternative means/at an alternative place under CPR 6.15; (5) an order dispensing with service of the Claim Form under CPR 6.16; and (6) summary judgment pursuant to CPR 24.

Held: the Defendants are entitled to the declaration that service of the Claim Form had been ineffective. The Claim Form was not served during its period of validity. In consequence, the Court has no jurisdiction over the Claimant’s claim. It follows that I should also formally dismiss the Claimant’s application for summary judgment.

Chris Buttler was involved in this case.

Challenges to major rail franchise procurements rejected

Stagecoach East Midlands Trains Ltd (and Ors) V The Secretary of State for Transport [2020] EWHC 1568 (TCC)

On 9 April 2019, the Department had informed Stagecoach and Arriva, and a joint venture between Stagecoach, SNCF and Virgin, that their bids had been rejected on the basis that they did not comply with the pensions requirements of the Department for rail employees.  Eight cases were then brought, four judicial reviews and four claims for damages based on EU law, leading to a very complex and extensive disclosure exercise and an expedited trial of the pensions issues.  The case also involved an expedited application by the Defendant for summary judgment and an appeal to the Court of Appeal in November 2019.  

The case involving Arriva was settled in January 2020, shortly before the trial, but on 18 June 2020, Stuart-Smith J ruled in favour of the Department on all of the pension issues, finding that it had been a commercial decision by Stagecoach and its partners to reject the Department’s pension requirements and that the Secretary of State had been legally entitled to disqualify them for non-compliance.