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    Newspaper publishing article about financial service group – company claim damages for diminution in market value – measure of damages too uncertain

    The defendant publisher of The Financial Times published an article which the claimants, a financial service group, claimed to be defamatory.

    The claim for damages included a claim for all special damage caused to the claimants’ business as a result of the publication complained of, including £230.5 million in damages for the difference between the actual and the potential market capitalisation of the company. The defendant applied to strike out that part of the claim for damages.

    Richard Spearman QC and Justin Rushbrooke (instructed by Schillings, London) for the claimants; Desmond Browne QC, Leon Kuschke and David Sherborne (instructed by Farrer & Co, London) for the defendant.

    Held, allowing the application, that the figure given by the claimants as the alleged shortfall was a proposition which the court was invited simply to take on trust, and that proposition was, if anything, a proposition of law rather than a statement of fact; that while damages for wrongful interference with goods with sometimes assessed by reference to market prices, the general rule was then to assess them at the time of the wrong committed, not the time of trial, and while there were no absolute rules, a date which was ascertained by a rule, rather than by the chances of listing the case for a hearing, was to be preferred as a matter of principle; and that, accordingly, the suggested measure of damages was far uncertain to be acceptable as a legal basis for assessing damages.

    Collins Stewart Ltd and another v The Financial Times Ltd: QBD (Mr Justice Tugendhat): 20 October 2004

    “The Law Society’s Gazette”: 11 November 2004