Libel claim against in-house solicitors struck out by court



An accountant who accused two in-house solicitors of libel, malicious falsehood, harassment and negligence has had most of her claim struck out by the High Court.

Yvonne Ameyaw, a chartered management accountant who was formerly employed by PwC, attempted to sue her former firm and two of the lawyers it instructed after her employment was terminated in 2017.

Ameyaw, who identifies herself as a black African woman, brought proceedings against PwC in the employment tribunal alleging direct race and/or sex discrimination. Christina McGoldrick and Louise Coyne were instructed by PwC to represent the company in the tribunal proceedings.

In Ameyaw v McGoldrick & Ors, Ameyaw claimed damages for what she described as a course of conduct in which the defendants are alleged to have committed the torts of libel, malicious falsehood, harassment, negligence, breach of confidence, and breach of her privacy and data protection rights.

One head of the claim related to three internal emails sent by PwC employees to one another, while another related to letter written by McGoldrick to the court, in which she said Ameyaw had displayed ‘aggressive and threatening behaviour’.

In judgment, the Honourable Mr Justice Warby found the words complained of did not meet the common law threshold of seriouness. ‘This is defamation at such a low level that no reasonable person would allow their attitude to the claimant to be substantially affected by it, without more,’ he said in relation to one of the internal emails.

Warby J struck out the whole of the particulars of claim and most of the claim form. He transferred Ameyaw’s data protection claim to the county court.

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The litigation has a complex procedural history. Mrs Justice Steyn DBE began hearing the applications but the hearing was adjourned after the claimant collapsed in court.

Before this occurred, Steyn J had refused to recuse herself over allegations that she gave the appearance of bias in favour of one of her former pupils at the bar.

Earlier in proceedings, Steyn J refused a McKenzie friend permission to speak on behalf of Ameyaw.



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