chapter
for the purposes of the law of obligations? (Cf Consumer Protection Act 1987, s 41.) 3 Is noise a thing? 4 Is Donoghue v Stevenson (above, p 65) an example of liability for damage done by a thing? What about Grant v Australian Knitting Mills (above)? 5 In breach of a statute, radiation escapes from a nuclear installation and contaminates local houses. The price of these houses falls dramatically. Can the owners sue the nuclear installation for their losses? (Cf Merlin v BNF [1990] 2 QB 557; Blue Circle Industries plc v MOD [1999] 2 WLR 295.) LIABILITY FOR WORDS (a) Defamation
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Lord Diplock:… My Lords, as a general rule, English law gives effect to the ninth commandment that a man shall not speak evil falsely of his neighbour. It supplies a temporal sanction; if he cannot prove that defamatory matter which he published was true, he is liable in damages to whomever he has defamed, except where the publication is oral only, causes no damage and falls outside the categories of slander actionable per se. The public interest that the law should provide an effective means whereby a man can vindicate his reputation against calumny has nevertheless to be accommodated to the competing public interest in permitting men to communicate frankly and freely with one another about matters in respect of which the law recognises that they have a duty to perform or an interest to protect in doing so. What is published in good faith on matters of these kinds is published on a privileged occasion. It is not actionable even though it be defamatory and turns out to be untrue. With some exceptions which are irrelevant to the instant appeal, the privilege is not absolute but qualified. It is lost if the occasion which gives rise to it is misused. For in all cases of qualified privilege there is some special reason of public policy why the law accords immunity from suitthe existence of some public or private duty, whether legal or moral, on the part of the maker of the defamatory statement which justifies his communicating it or of some interest of his own which he is entitled to protect by doing so. If he uses the occasion for some other reason, he loses the protection of the privilege…

John v MGN Ltd [1997] QB 586 Court of Appeal

Sir Thomas Bingham MR: Neither the appellant MGN Ltd (the newspaper) nor the respondent Mr Elton John (the plaintiff) needs any introduction in this appeal which arises from a libel action brought by the latter in respect of

an article published in the Sunday Mirror on 27 December 1992. At the conclusion of the trial before Drake J and a jury, the jury awarded the plaintiff £350,000 damages, comprising £75,000 compensatory damages and £275,000 exemplary damages, and judgment was entered accordingly.