Davison wins libel action

A former Miss World suing no-frills carrier Ryanair for defamation has been awarded €80,000 after winning her case.

A jury ruled a press release by the airline implied model Rosanna Davison, daughter of singer Chris de Burgh, was racist, xenophobic, jealous and narrow-minded.

After less than three hours of deliberations at the High Court in Dublin the jury found she had been defamed by Ryanair.

The case centred on a press release posted on Ryanair's website on November 11 2008 in response to remarks Miss Davison made the previous day in a newspaper.

The model had been asked by a journalist about what she thought of the lack of any Irish women in Ryanair’s 2009 charity calendar, which featured bikini clad cabin crew.

Miss Davison said she was correctly quoted the next day as saying: “If I was (organising) it, I would have made sure that Irish women were involved because it’s an Irish charity and Irish fundraising.”

The following day the airline issued its press release which stated Ryanair “today hit back at comments made by Irish glamour model Rosanna Davison in relation to the absence of Irish cabin crew from Ryanair’s 2009 charity calendar which ’bordered on racism and demonstrated an elitist attitude against Ryanair’s international cabin crew’.”

Miss Davison, 27, of Cornelscourt, Dublin, claimed the release defamed her in that, she alleges, it meant she was racist, xenophobic and jealous.

Ryanair denied defamation and maintained it stated her comments bordered on racism and not that she was racist.

Dressed in a knee length black dress, fitted black jacket and black steel toe encrusted Christian Louboutin shoes, Miss Davison sat alone at the back of the packed courtroom as the verdict was returned.

Crowned Miss World in 2003, Miss Davison completed an honours degree in Sociology and History of Art at University College Dublin in 2006 and did a diploma in PR and Event Management. She is also a newspaper columnist.

The jury of eight men and four women awarded Miss Davison €40,000 for compensatory damages and €40,000 for aggravated damages.

The case will be mentioned again next week when Ryanair is expected to ask for a stay on the payment.

Mr Justice Eamon de Valera had earlier told the jury any award of damages should be appropriate and not unnecessarily extravagant.

The jury was allowed to return a majority verdict after they failed to agree on the case.

Miss Davison was overheard saying telling her lawyers: “I just texted dad ’we won’.”

Outside the court the model posed for photographers and said she was delighted with the outcome, thanking her fans for their support.

Her solicitor Paul Tweed said: “Rosanna is obviously very satisfied with this outcome and the complete vindication of her reputation.

“She has shown considerable personal courage in bringing this action.

“However, justice has been done and Rosanna wants to put this behind her and get on with her life and her successful career.”

Mr Tweed said it would be inappropriate to comment on what Miss Davison would do with her award.

Stephen McNamara, Ryanair’s head of communications who wrote the press release, initially said the airline was appealing against the award.

“We note that the jury were split and now we will be looking for an appeal on the damages because we feel we should have been able to bring forward the argument of fair comment and qualified privilege,” he said.

“I still stand by the right for us to defend the calendar so in terms of that I don’t think any apology was required.”

He revealed the airline was turning its attention to its 2012 calendar, which he said he hoped will be widely supported.

“Rosanna herself can apply,” joked Mr McNamara.

“If she wants to apply we’ll consider her. But the best girls will always get in.”

However later this evening Ryanair issued a statement saying they were "very happy" with the outcome and no appeal would take place.

"Having considered the matter further and in light of the fact that the jury award of €40,000 for damages to her reputation is less than the cost of an appeal to the Supreme Court we have decided not to bother appealing as we are very happy with this outcome," the company said.

Last November a jury in Dublin awarded a record €10m to executive Donal Kinsella over a press release issued by a company about an “incident” in Mozambique in which he sleep walked naked to a female colleague’s bedroom.

That award broke a previous record of €1.87m to PR consultant Monica Leech in June 2009 over a series of articles in the Evening Herald.

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