Monday 16 September 2019

Aer Lingus pilot due to receive damages over defamatory emails

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John Mulligan

John Mulligan

A jury is set to be sworn this week at the High Court for a landmark case where they will decide the amount of damages due to an Aer Lingus pilot who claimed he was defamed by three emails sent by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) a number of years ago.

Those emails were circulated inside the IAA and also sent to the UK's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Precise details of the case are expected to be laid bare in court this week after the jury is selected.

The defamatory emails emerged from communications sent by the CAA about an incident involving Padraig Higgins when he was flying a microlight aircraft in the UK. Mr Higgins had accepted an offer of amends from the IAA under the 2009 defamation act, but the parties were unable to subsequently agree the terms of the offer.

If an offer of amends is refused, the matter can then be referred to the High Court for resolution.

The offer of amends by the IAA had included the intention by the authority to publish a correction and apology, and to pay damages and costs as might be determined or agreed.

With the two sides unable to agree to terms, Mr Higgins then requested that a High Court jury assess the amount of damages he was entitled to.

The IAA opposed that move.

However, the High Court ruled in 2016 that Mr Higgins was entitled to have a jury determine how much he should receive in damages.

The IAA appealed that to the Court of Appeal, which upheld the High Court's ruling.

The IAA then brought the matter to the Supreme Court which ultimately said the jury should decide.

"Assessment of damages in a High Court defamation action is and always has been quintessentially a matter for a jury," said Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Dunne.

"Even in cases where liability is admitted, a jury determines the damages".

Irish Independent

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