Clifford Chance has won an extraordinary appeal in which a solicitor sued his client for libel after the client complained he had competed with them for a property.
Clifford Chance partner Michael Smyth led the team acting for Regent House Properties in its appeal against the March 2004 decision of Mr Justice Tugendhat and a jury in favour of solicitor David Conway.
The Court of Appeal unanimously overturned the High Court verdict on issues of justification and malice on 10 November. Lord Justice Auld said: “It is, in my view, no advertisement for our system of jury trial in civil cases – where it applies – for such complex issues to be tried in this way. A martian, on learning of it, would be amazed, as would the ordinary person in the street.”
The High Court jury found for Conway and awarded damages of £96,000. The Court of Appeal ordered Conway to repay the damages and make a downpayment of £750,000 towards Regent’s costs of £2.1m.
Conway said: “We’re surprised at the verdict and at the way the Court of Appeal arrived at its decision.” He said an appeal was possible.
Smyth instructed Brick Court’s Sir Sydney Kentridge QC and One Essex Court’s Kenneth MacLean QC. Conway instructed Selborne Chambers’ Romie Tager QC.