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Gulf Oil (Great Britain) Ltd v Page and others [1987] Ch 327

Injunction; conspiracy; breach of contract; accuracy of statement

(285 words)

Facts

The claimant was in an exclusive supply agreement with the defendants, the owners of petrol filling stations. Following a debt dispute, the claimant stopped deliveries to the defendants except on COD direct debit terms. The defendants then contracted with another supplier and failed to make the payments still owed to the claimant. As a result, the claimant terminated their contract. Consequently, the defendants sued the claimant for breach of contract. The trial judge found that the claimant has indeed been in breach before it terminated the agreement and awarded damages to the defendants for the failed deliveries. Both sides appealed. Before the appeal was heard, the defendants engaged in different activities exposing the details of the judgment against the claimant to the claimant’s customers. The claimant sought an injunction and damages for conspiracy to injure. The claimant’s request was refused – it appealed.

Issue

The claimant disagreed with the refusal to grant an injunction and the finding that there was no conspiracy to injure due to the truth of the words as exposed by the defendants.

Held

The Court of Appeal agreed with the claimant. While defamation principles did in fact hold that no wrong would be committed if the words published were true, these principles did not apply here. As the statement made by the defendants were published following a combination between them, with the sole purpose to injuring the claimant’s interests, a conspiracy to injure was established. As the claimant did not base its action on libel, but a conspiracy to injure, in order to grant an injunction, the court merely had to be satisfied that there was a serious question of conspiracy to injure to be tried with sufficient prima facie evidence.


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