Wrongful Interdict: Look Before You Leap!
As a court decision, published today, outlines the potential perils of seeking interim interdict, I am reminded of the ill-fated goat in Aesop’s Fable who unwittingly leapt into the well to his own entrapment. Obtaining interim interdict (injunction) in Scotland is always at the risk of the party seeking it. If it turns out it wasn’t really justified, damages for wrongful interdict may be payable. Today’s decision in Aird Geomatics Limited and Others against Richard Stevenson and Another, reinforces the importance of looking before leaping when it comes to interdict.
In this case, Mr Stevenson sought damages from the wrongfully obtained interim interdict against him relating to allegations that he had breached the confidentiality and non-solicitation clauses in his employment contract. Aird, however, abandoned their case and the judge recalled the interim interdict having found that it had been wrongfully obtained.
Mr Stevenson had raised a counterclaim seeking damages for losses, including loss of income, reputational damage, anxiety and stress. The question before the court (Outer House) was therefore whether Mr Stevenson suffered loss as a result of the wrongful interdict and, if so, what levels of damages he should receive.
Interestingly in this case Aird did not argue that any of Mr Stevenson’s claims could not result in damages or were wrong in law. Instead they argued that there was no causal link between wrongful interdict and the losses suffered (or that they were too small to matter (i.e. de minimis).
The court decided that there was indeed a causal link between the wrongful interim interdict and the loss injury and damage Mr Stevenson suffered. Those losses were not quite to the level of the counterclaim however (£60,000): an award of £8,000 was made. The court chose not to ascribe specific sums to each of the heads of damages, preferring to make a global award.
The case serves as a useful warning that, despite the inevitable urgency that goes hand in hand with it, interim interdict should be approached with some caution and users should be made well aware of the risks and potential exposure if the case does not ultimately go their way. As the Fable goes, ‘you would never have gone down before you had inspected the way up, nor have exposed yourself to dangers from which you had determined upon no means of escape!'. Users must always look before they leap and accept the risk that an interdict order may later be recalled and, if it is, they may be liable in damages.
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