Today, the Court of Appeal handed down a unanimous judgment, allowing Mishcon de Reya's clients - Alphaco Ltd, EuroEco Fuels (Poland), Mr Allen Timpany and Mr Robert Harper - to proceed in the English Courts with their defamation and malicious falsehood claim against the Port Authority of Szczecin, in Poland.
Alphaco Ltd is the UK owner of EuroEco Fuels (Poland), which operates a pioneering alternative petrochemical production plant in the Port of Szczecin, turning used tyres into carbon and oil products. Mr Timpany and Mr Harper, both British entrepreneurs, are the joint founders of the EEF plant in Poland, and have each invested significant personal funds and time to develop, test and utilise this ground-breaking environmentally-friendly technology.
The Defendants are EEF's landlord, the Port Authority of Szczecin (which is an organisation owned and controlled by the Polish Government), Mr Milewski, the Director of Port Infrastructure and Maintenance, and Mr Slaboszewski, the then President of the Port Authority.
The defamation and malicious falsehood claim relates to statements made in Poland, which were picked up and published online - and were read by significant numbers of the Claimants' investors and potential investors in England. The thrust of these publications was that the Port Authority accused the EEF plant of emitting benzene at levels exceeding permitted levels. Those remarks were picked up widely by the Polish media, television, and online news outlets. The Claimants deny the allegations in their entirety, pleading in the case that the tests on which the Defendants relied do not in fact show any exceedance of emissions regulations. They argued that anyone reading the Republications would know that human exposure to benzene above certain levels is associated with acute health disorders, and allege that the Defendants had authorised and published the allegations for the dominant and improper motive of causing damage to EEF.
As is their right, the Claimants initiated proceedings in this jurisdiction, for the harm they have suffered and continue to suffer here. The Defendants challenged jurisdiction, which application was successful at first instance in May 2018. The Court of Appeal's decision today, 11 November 2019, allows the Claimants to proceed with their case in the courts of England and Wales.
Commenting on the decision, Emma Woollcott, Head of Reputation at Mishcon de Reya, who led the case and was supported by Associate, Harry Eccles-Williams, said:
"This long-awaited decision is welcomed by our clients, who can now proceed with vindicating their reputations in the forum in which they have suffered the most significant harm – England and Wales. The key driver behind most claims in defamation and malicious falsehood is to address the damage caused in the place where a person or business suffers most significant damage, which is often where we are particularly well known. As is their right, the Claimants have chosen to defend themselves before the courts in England and Wales, and they look forward to progressing those proceedings now with vigour."