Defamation

Guesthouse Owner Awarded €70,000 Compensation for Defamation on the Radio


 

A guesthouse owner from County Waterford has successfully recovered compensation for defamation on the radio after his premises was described as a brothel.

Vincent O´Toole is a highly respected member of the Waterford community having been a former ships master and racehorse breeder. Now aged 84, Vincent is the owner of the Maryland House guesthouse in Mall, which was described in 2006 by the Sunday World newspaper as a brothel.

Vincent sued the paper for defamation and won his case in 2007. However, the court case against the Sunday World was not the end of the saga as, in August 2008, an episode of the Gerry Ryan Show on 2FM carried a “Nob Nation” sketch in which Maryland House was referred to as “a byword in Waterford for prostitution”.

Vincent made a claim for compensation for defamation on the radio against RTÉ – the operators of 2FM – who, although apologising for any distress Vincent may have experienced, denied that the sketch was defamatory. RTÉ said that the reference to his guesthouse could only have caused him limited emotional damage and limited damage to his reputation.

However, Vincent claimed in his legal action that tourists had arrived at his guesthouse expecting it to be a brothel, and that the gardaí had to be called after he and his wife had been verbally abused. Vincent added that RTÉ had published a guide to acceptable program standards in June 2008, and that these standards had been ignored during the broadcast of the “Nob Nation” sketch.

The case went to the High Court in Dublin, where a jury heard RTÉ again apologise for defaming the guesthouse on 2FM, but say that the damage was limited by the fleeting nature of the reference to the guest house in the broadcast and the generally jocose tone in which the reference was delivered. The jury awarded Vincent €70,000 compensation for defamation on the radio – Vincent later commenting that he felt vindicated for bringing the claim for compensation for defamation on the radio.