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Wednesday 12 December 2018

Man defamed by 'fake tenner' remark in pub awarded €5k damages

Leonard Nolan was told his €10 banknote was counterfeit
Leonard Nolan was told his €10 banknote was counterfeit

A man who claimed he was defamed when he was told by a barman that a €10 note he offered was fake has been awarded €5,000 by the High Court.

Leonard Nolan (53), of Pearse Gardens, Sallynoggin, sued Laurence Lounge Ltd, trading as Grace's Pub, in Rathmines, for defamation when he tried to buy a pint of lager at the pub on April 24, 2013.

He was awarded €5,000 plus costs in the Circuit Court in 2016.

The pub appealed to the High Court where, yesterday, Mr Justice Michael McGrath upheld the Circuit Court finding and award.

The barman told the court he dealt with the matter as discreetly as possible and said he knew the banknote was not genuine because it did not have a silver strip running down the middle of it.

The pub also pleaded that this was an occasion of qualified privilege, whereby a statement to someone with an interest in receiving such information is protected as long as it is not motivated by malice.

Mr Justice McGrath said that while he could not be certain as to what happened on the night, he regarded the evidence of Mr Nolan as "being more probable and likely".

He also regarded the publication of the defamatory statement, while there were other customers in the bar, as being excessive.

He had analysed previous case law on the issue of qualified privilege, which is only defeated where publication is excessive and not reasonable.

On the facts of this case, he was satisfied the defence of qualified privilege had been negated by the excessive publication and he therefore found for Mr Nolan.

He was satisfied the sum of €5,000 awarded by the Circuit Court was the appropriate award and adjourned the question of costs to next week.

Mr Nolan, a fast food delivery man, told the court last February that he had gone into the pub on his way home at around 8.30pm.

He ordered a pint of lager and put a €10 note on the counter.

Reliable

"Rather than fulfil my order, the barman decided to pick up the note and holding it aloft said, 'You can clearly see that is a fake'," said Mr Nolan.

He said he told the barman he got the note from the post office, that it was "a reliable source and that note is good".

Mr Nolan said there were around 10 other people in this pub, with two men sitting very close at the counter. He said the barman was speaking in a loud voice.

The barman, Desmond Bond, who has worked in Grace's for 13 years, told the court he said to Mr Nolan it was a "fake note", and asked: "Where did you get that?"

He said Mr Nolan said he got it "in a bookies or a shop", and he told him to take it back there.

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