Ryanair loses defamation case against three pilots
Ryanair has lost its High Court action for defamation against three pilots.
A jury found a September 2013 email “Pilot update: what the markets are saying about Ryanair” did mean the airline was guilty of market manipulation.
However, in their majority verdict of nine or more, they found Ryanair had not proved malice by the three defendants, Evert Van Zwol, John Goss and Ted Murphy.
As the court had found the update was published on an occasion of qualified privilege, which is only lost where malice is proven, there was no defamation.
Mr Justice Bernard Barton, on the application of Paul O’Higgins SC, for the defendants, dismissed the case and granted costs. He put a stay on the costs in the event of an appeal following an application from Thomas Hogan SC, for Ryanair.
The defendants were congratulated by friends and family who had attended court.
In a statement, Ryanair said: “We welcome the jury’s decision that the RPG statements were defamatory. We are disappointed with the ruling on malice and have instructed our lawyers to immediately appeal.”
The jury, of nine men and two women (one member was lost on the final day due to illness) had been deliberating from 10.30am on Thursday to just before 6pm.
Ryanair brought its case against the three who are members of the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG) interim council, as publishers of the update which went to 2,289 Ryanair pilots.
They denied defamation and denied the meaning attributed to the words of the update by Ryanair.
They also said the words had the benefit of qualified privilege whereby a statement published to someone with an interest in receiving such information is protected as long as it is not motivated by malice.
The airline claimed that by publishing that incorrect statement, the defendants were saying, by innuendo or insinuation, the airline misled investors, knowingly facilitated insider dealing by management, was guilty of market manipulation and conspired with management to abuse the markets.