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High Court issues record €10m libel payout for naked sleepwalker

€9m in compensation – and €1m in aggravated damages – is the highest ever libel payout in the history of the State.

Image: elward-photography via Flickr

THE JURY in the case of a businessman who claimed he was libelled when his former employer issued a press release about an incident where he sleepwalked naked has awarded €10m in damages – the largest ever libel payout in the history of the State.

Donal Kinsella (67), a former vice-chairman of mining company Kenmare Resources, said a press release issued after he had sleepwalked while on a business trip to Mozambique – in which he had woken a female secretary three times in one night, each time while wearing no clothes – had given the incident a higher status than it deserved.

Kinsella claimed that the incident was being exploited by the company’s chairman, Charles Carville, and his son Michael in an attempt to oust him from the company’s board. The company, however, had maintained that Kinsella could have saved his job by merely resigning from an internal audit committee of which he was chairman.

This evening, the High Court jury found in Kinsella’s favour – and gave him €10m in damages, including €9m in compensation for the incident.

The remaining €1m was awarded by the jury on the basis of ‘aggravated damages’, finding that Kinsella was unfairly treated in the witness box.

The jury found that the press release was intended to embarrass or put pressure on Kinsella, and that it was reckless in the content of the release.

RTÉ’s Six One news reported that Justice Éamon de Valera appeared surprised at the scale of the damages being awarded, with some in the courtroom offering nervous laughter when the record payout was announced.

The scale of the award dwarfs the previous record given by the Irish courts in respect of libel proceedings; PR consultant Monica Leech had been awarded €1.87m after an action against Independent newspapers.

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Gavan Reilly

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