Former Evening Herald journalist wins €52,000 damages

 

Former Evening Herald political correspondent Mairead Carey, whose employment contract was terminated in April 2000, has been awarded just over €52,000 damages in the High Court against Independent Newspapers for breach of contract.

Mr Justice Paul Gilligan, in a reserved judgment, said she was a distinguished journalist with Ireland on Sundaywhen contacted in September 1999 by former Evening Heraldeditor Paul Drury about becoming political correspondent for the evening tabloid.

He found Drury had made a negligent representation to Ms Carey by positively affirming morning working from home arrangements and failing to advise her by his silence of the fact that senior Independent management had serious reservations about it.

Judge Gilligan said this, and the fact that Drury had not advised senior management that Ms Carey could not take up the position if proposed morning working arrangements were not agreed or proved unworkable, was the crucial point in the case.

He was satisfied she had left Ireland on Sundayas a result of the representation made by Drury that she could work from home for the first edition. He accepted that without that assurance Ms Carey would not have joined the Evening Herald.

Judge Gilligan said the agreed working conditions were immediately in jeopardy, leading to termination of her employment, when Mr Drury departed the newspaper as editor.

No blame attached to Ms Carey as there was no way she could have checked the accuracy of the representation made to her by Mr Drury. She had simply trusted him and relied on what he had said.

"I am satisfied Mr Drury owed the plaintiff a duty of care to avoide making a negligent representation in the precontractual negotiation stages which had the effect of inducing her to act to her detriment in the circumstances that arose," he said.

He said management's serious reservations should have been communicated by Mr Drury to Ms Carey in compliance with the duty of care which he owed to her to enable her to fully assess the position.

He held that Drury had conveyed to Ms Carey an inaccurate representation as to the true background position. He had failed in this regard and accordingly the court was satisfied Independent Newspapers were guilty of a negligent misrepresentation.

Judge Gilligan said he did not consider that Ms Carey had made out a case for injury to reputation. No aspersion aspersion had been cast on her capacity and integrity as a journalist and, in particular, as to her role as political correspondent.

He believed Independent newspapers were well intentioned to her and in a different set of circumstances the working arrangement would probably have worked very well.

Ms Carey joined the Evening Herald in late 1999 and held the position for about six months. She claimed that under her terms of employment she was to work from her home from 7 a.m. until the first edition deadline and afterwards to work from the Dailfor the remainder of the day.

Mr Drury's employment terminated just after she had taken up her new position and shortly afterwards a dispute arose when she was asked to come into the Evening Heraldoffice in the early morning.

Ms Carey, who had a young baby at the time, had claimed she could not get childminding facilities at such an early hour.

Independent Newspapers denied it wrongfully purported to terminate her contract summarily and submitted it had lawfully terminated her contract on four weeks' notice.