Monday 18 December 2017

Real winner is common sense in jury awards

Dearbhail McDonald Legal Editor

WERE there any real losers in the Rosanna/Ryanair spat?

The former Miss World walked away last night in her six-inch Christian Louboutin stilettos with €80,000 and her reputation "completely vindicated".

Ryanair, which this week posted a healthy full-year profit forecast of €400m, received -- by Irish jury awards standards at any rate -- a mere slap on the purse strings.

Both parties emerged from the High Court last night with priceless quantities of what sustains them: free publicity.

Shortly before 6pm, Davison, the daughter of Chris de Burgh -- who revealed in the proceedings that he has pursued and won some 16 defamation actions -- confided that she was feeling "sick" about the jury verdict.

She was also worried that if the jury deliberated for several hours more that she would miss her dad's concert at the Grand Canal theatre last night.

Within minutes, however, Davison was transformed. She beamed as it was confirmed that she was defamed in a Ryanair press release which she claimed wrongly meant she was racist, xenophobic and jealous.


The legal costs of the five-day action -- estimated at up to €200,000 -- dwarf by several multiples the jury's award, which was separated into €40,000 for general damages and €40,000 for aggravated damages.

Last night Ryanair abandoned the prospect of a Supreme Court appeal, saying that it wasn't worth it.

"In light of the fact that the jury award of €40,000 for damages to her reputation is less than the cost of an appeal we have decided not to bother appealing as we are very happy with this outcome," said the no-frills airline.

The real winner, arguably, was common sense. The €80,000 awarded to Davison is a welcome step back from the crazy precipice of damages awarded by juries in Ireland.

Last November a jury in Dublin awarded a record €10m to executive Donal Kinsella over a press release issued by a company about an "incident" in Mozambique in which he sleepwalked naked to a female colleague's bedroom. The Kinsella award, which is under appeal, broke a previous record of €1.87m -- which is also under appeal -- to PR consultant Monica Leech in June 2009 over a series of articles in the 'Evening Herald'.

Fewer than 1,000 people viewed the original press release on Ryanair's website, netting Davison €80 for each person who bothered to check out the calendar girls' controversy.

As he charged the Davison jury, High Court Judge Mr Justice Eamon de Valera told the jurors to keep their feet on the ground.

Nothing extravagant, nothing off the wall, nothing miserly either.

If it signifies the beginning of a deflationary trend in libel awards, the Davison verdict is a welcome one.

Especially when it came on a day that a mother, just a couple of courtrooms away from Ms Davison, received €170,000 in damages for nervous shock after watching her daughter die from meningitis.

Irish Independent

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