Midlands wine libel suit ruled ‘too vague’

2008-12-05 00:00

The Stables Wine Estate at Nottingham Road — whose owners, Tiny and Judy van Niekerk, have instituted a R550 000 high court defamation action against rival wine producers Ian and Jane Smorthwaite — has 14 days to amend the particulars of its claim in terms of a high court order granted yesterday.

In a reserved judgment, Judge Fikile Mokgohloa granted an order in favour of the Smorthwaites, effectively ruling that the allegations contained in the papers filed on behalf of The Stables and the Van Niekerks are too vague.

She granted them leave to deliver amended particulars of the claim within 14 days.

The Van Niekerks alleged in their original papers that the Smorthwaites defamed them in respect of the Swiss Airline “Seal of Approval” award for their 2005 Shiraz, in making statements that they (or The Stables) “fraudulently misrepresented or misled the public that it had produced the wine as a KZN wine of origin and/or that the grapes used were not KZN grapes” and continued to do the same with regard to other wines produced by The Stables.

The alleged statements were said to have been made “from May 2006 and continue to date, to members of the public, representatives of the media and local government representatives and Gijima KZN”, and to have been made in KZN, “including the KZN midlands, Pietermaritzburg and Nottingham Road”.

The Smorthwaites said that the allegations were “vague and embarrassing” and failed to disclose details necessary for their preparation for the trial, such as the number of occasions on which the alleged statements were made; who made them, the words that were allegedly used, the approximate date, occasion, place and person to whom each statement was made as well as whether they were uttered verbally or written.

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