Pilots urge Court of Appeal to uphold decision in Ryanair defamation case

Three pilots won case after seven-week trial in 2017

Three pilots who were found not to have defamed Ryanair in an email circular have urged the Court of Appeal to uphold a High Court jury's decision in the case.

Evert Van Zwol, John Goss and Ted Murphy. members of the Ryanair Pilots Group (RPG), emerged victorious after a seven-week trial in 2017 in which they contested Ryanair's action seeking damages against them.

The airline had claimed that, in issuing an RPG email in 2013 entitled “Pilot update, what the markets are saying about Ryanair” to 2,289 Ryanair pilots, the three had defamed the airline.

It was claimed the defendants were saying that, by innuendo or insinuation, Ryanair misled investors and knowingly facilitated insider dealing by management. It also wrongly meant the airline was guilty of market manipulation and conspired with management to abuse the markets, it claimed.

The three denied it was defamatory or had the meaning attributed to it by the airline.

They also argued qualified privilege which means a statement is protected once it is not motivated by malice and published to those with an interest in receiving it.

Ryanair has urged the CoA to overturn the jury verdict on grounds including the trial judge had irredeemably infected the jury’s thinking in a ruling during the trial.

That ruling related to an email that was not disclosed in advance of the trial as required by court rules.

Ryanair claims that email showed malice and the trial judge was wrong not to discharge the jury over it.

On the second day of the appeal, Paul O’Higgins SC, for the three, urged the CoA to let the jury decision stand.

Expunging evidence

Counsel said the trial judge was correct in the expunging of certain evidence of a Ryanair witness and in refusing to discharge the jury over the undisclosed email.

He also disputed Ryanair’s claims that qualified privilege did not apply because the identities of some 500 pilots to whom the email was sent had not been established.

Counsel will continue his arguments on Friday, including in relation to disputing the Ryanair claim the appeal court could not uphold the jury finding because of irrationality.

The appeal is expected to conclude later on Friday with judgment reserved.