Suit fails: wine firm to pay costs

2009-06-27 00:00

THE Stables Wine Estate will have to pay about R50 000 in costs for its failed attempt to sue rival midlands winemakers for defamation. The claim was withdrawn without any evidence having been presented.

Judy and “Tiny” van Niekerk of Stables sued Ian and Jane Smorthwaite, owners of Abingdon Wine Estate, in July last year for R550 000 for alleged defamation.

The Smorthwaites filed an exception to the particulars of the claim on the grounds that they were “vague, embarrassing and unsubstantiated”.

In December, the Van Niekerks were given 15 days to rectify their papers, which they failed to do. They were ordered to pay costs, which they did, when threatened with a writ of execution. The Smorthwaites applied to have the claim dismissed in February. The Van Niekerks did not respond and were once again ordered to pay costs. In May, on the day the case was to be argued again in the high court, the Van Niekerks withdrew their claim and tendered their costs.

The judge found in favour of the Smorthwaites, stating that the Van Niekerks ignored legislation and the uniform rules of court and court orders, and had not taken their case seriously. They were ordered to pay the costs on attorney-and-client scale.

Ian Smorthwaite said in response to the judgment that “the wine industry in the midlands is showing promising growth and the good of the industry should have been considered a year ago when the Van Niekerks instigated this baseless attack . The correct judgment has been passed and we hope to be left to get on with the business of making great KZN estate wines at Abingdon.”

— Witness Reporter.

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