Newspaper solicitors miss court date during defamation case
Kay Mulcaire: Judgment set aside pending an early trial
Judgment for defamation of character, against Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited in favour of businesswoman and former model Kay Mulcaire, was set aside in the Circuit Civil Court yesterday.
But Judge Jacqueline Linnane awarded Ms Mulcaire her legal costs for two court applications seeking judgment in default of defence against the owner of the Irish Mail on Sunday.
Ms Mulcaire, of Kilcoole Stables, Rathkeale, is the daughter-in-law of horse trainer Michael Hourigan and runs boutiques K Boutique in Adare and Isobel in Rathkeale, Co Limerick.
She claims the Irish Mail on Sunday in April 2010 defamed her in an article by Beibhinn Byrne commenting on her having won the Best Dressed prize at the Punchestown races earlier that month.
Alleging defamation of character, Ms Mulcaire stated the article appeared under the headline: “Judging womens’ looks like animals’ is demeaning – and it is why we get so few of the top jobs”.
Ms Mulcaire claims the article stated she had “allowed herself become arm candy to be ogled in attention-seeking clothes and prove herself in an entirely superficial way” and referred to Best Dressed competitions at race tracks as “the human Crufts”.
Judge Linnane said solicitors for Associated Newspapers (Ireland) Limited had received nine letters seeking entry of a defence and faced three court applications seeking judgment in default of defence.
Barrister Tom Murphy told the court the county registrar, Susan Ryan, on December 18th had granted judgment against the newspaper company with assessment of damages at the trial date, but had put a stay on her order until January 14th.
He said a robust defence, based on honest opinion in a fair and reasonable publication, had been entered on January 15th. He had drawn up the document, which had been available since October 2011, and, perhaps naively, because of ongoing settlement talks, the newspaper’s solicitors had overlooked entering it.
When the solicitors realised what had happened an attempt had been made to remedy the matter. There had been no appearance in court by a solicitor or counsel for the newspaper on December 18th.
Michelle Liddy, counsel for Ms Mulcaire, said she accepted the non-appearance on December 18th had been due to inadvertence on the part of the newspaper’s solicitors but she could not understand why they would think she did not require entry of a defence.
Judge Linnane set aside the judgment and said there should be an early trial of the proceedings.