Friday 22 March 2019

Ryanair loses High Court defamation battle against 3 pilots

Evert Van Zwol spoke on behalf of the pilots’ group Photo: Collins
Evert Van Zwol spoke on behalf of the pilots’ group Photo: Collins

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 a majority verdict of nine or more, it found Ryanair had not proved malice by the three defendants, Evert Van Zwol, John Goss and Ted Murphy.

The court declared the update was published on an occasion of "qualified privilege" - which is only lost where malice is proven - meaning there was no defamation.


Mr Justice Bernard Barton 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 after the verdict.

The jury of nine men and two women had been deliberating from 10.30am until just before 6pm.

Ryanair brought its case against the three, members of the Ryanair Pilot Group (RPG) interim council, as publishers of a pilot update distributed to 2,289 Ryanair pilots.

They denied defamation and denied the meaning attributed by Ryanair to the words of the update.

They also claimed the words had the benefit of qualified privilege - a statement published to someone with an interest in receiving such information is protected, provided it is not motivated by malice.

The airline claimed that by publishing an incorrect statement, the defendants were saying that, either 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 markets.


The jury said the update did mean Ryanair was guilty of market manipulation.

However, the jury rejected the idea that it suggested the airline had misled investors, knowingly facilitated insider dealing by managers, or that Ryanair had conspired with managers to abuse the market for its shares.

In a statement afterwards on behalf of the RPG, Evert Van Zwol said from the outset the objective of the group was to represent the interests of all Ryanair pilots and to help them bring issues to the attention of management.

"We wish to dedicate today's victory to all Ryanair pilots who are standing strong for each other around Europe and have, through their collective courage, succeeded in having Ryanair change its long-standing policy of union recognition," he said.

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