WHEN THE PLEADINGS SHOULD NOT NAME SOMEONE: HIGH COURT OBSERVATIONS

In Huda v Wells & Ors [2017] EWHC 2553 (QB) Mr Justice Nicklin made some observations that make it clear that it may be prudent for statements of case not to name vulnerable individuals.

THE CASE

The defendants set aside an order giving permission to the claimant to serve them in Jersey.  The claimant’s action was for libel and malicious falsehood.  The judge was concerned that a patient had been named in the particulars of claim.

THE FOOTNOTE TO THE JUDGMENT

The judgment refers to the patient as “Patient A”.  The judge observed in a footnote that:-

“Note 1    It was unfortunate that the Claimant named Patient A in his Particulars of Claim. Sensitive medical information concerning Patient A is contained in the Particulars of Claim. Once an acknowledgement of service is served or the claim is listed for a hearing, the contents of the Particulars of Claim become open to public inspection (CPR Part 5.4C(3)). Publication of information contained in documents required by law to be open to public inspection is protected by qualified privilege (s.15(1) Defamation Act 1996). At the commencement of the hearing I made an order that no copies of the Particulars of Claim on the Court file are to be inspected by, or provided to, non-parties until all references to the patient’s name have been replaced with “Patient A”.”

PLEADING A CASE IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES

This issue arises regularly. Particularly in cases where claimants have been injured by, or because, of a child or patient.  In these circumstances it is usually prudent to refer to “a patient, (“Patient A”) or “a child (“Child B”) rather than name an individual.  I have never known a party, or a judge, object to this and it prevents the kind of problem that arose in this case.