High Court upholds €5k award to man over fake tenner defamation

By Ann O'Loughlin

A man who claimed he was defamed when he was told by a barman that a €10 note he used to pay for a pint of lager was fake has been awarded €5,000 by the High Court.

Leonard Nolan (aged 53), of Pearse Gardens, Sallynoggin, Co Dublin, sued Laurence Lounge Ltd, trading as Grace's Pub of Rathmines, Dublin, for defamation when he went to 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 today 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 he said he knew it was not genuine, because it did not have a silver strip running down the middle of it.

Leonard Nolan. Pic: Courtpix.

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 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 in 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 negatived 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.

He adjourned the question of costs to next week.

Mr Nolan, a fast food delivery man, told the court last February he went 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.

"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", he said.

He said he told the barman he got the tenner from the 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.

He said he went to Rathmines Garda Station, which is just across the road from the pub, where a garda took the note from him, went away and about four minutes later returned and said "that note is perfect, you can spend it anywhere you like".

He returned to the bar and told the barman what the garda had said. He asked the barman to sign the note but he refused and told him to leave. Next day, he went to his solicitor.

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, where did you get that?".

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

He said he knew it was not a genuine note because it did not have a silver strip in it. He also disputed that the note produced in court was the one Mr Nolan presented on the night.

He disagreed, under cross examination, that for whatever reason he took an instant dislike to Mr Nolan and decided he was going to accuse him of tendering a fake note.

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