Ryanair has lost an appeal that it disclose a fuller version of a report of an investigation into an incident involving one of its flights at the centre of defamation proceedings the airline is taking against one of its former pilots.
Ryanair is suing Captain Erik Besancon, who was dismissed in August 2013, over postings he made on a website called the Professional Pilots Rumour Network. Capt Besancon, who lives in the French West Indies, used the pseudonym "Enjoy the View".
The postings concerned an incident at Memmingen Airport, Germany, in September 2012 as a Ryanair flight from Manchester was landing. It was investigated by the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Investigation, which produced an interim report which Capt Bescancon obtained. He posted comments in December 2012.
Ryanair sued claiming the words meant, among other things, the airline operated unsafe internal procedures, that a culture existed within the company which pressurised crews to operate in a manner that comprises safety, and forced crews to operate under massive stress.
Capt Besancon denies the claims and also pleaded fair and reasonable publication on a matter of important public interest.
The pilot, in preparation for his defence, sought discovery of certain documents, including Ryanair's own base investigation report into the incident.
The airline released certain material, but Capt Besancon complained the base investigation report was too heavily redacted. Ryanair said it did so on the basis of maintaining confidentiality.
Capt Besancon asked the High Court to resolve the issue of discovery and last year a judge ruled the defence should be allowed view the report.
Ryanair appealed arguing the High Court fell into error in fact and in law.
It sought to overturn the decision on grounds including that the court's finding the airline could not now argue the report was irrelevant or unnecessary and in finding that the seeking of the report amounted to a fishing exercise to bolster the defendant's case.
In his decision rejecting the Ryanair appeal, Mr Justice Robert Haughton, on behalf of the three-judge Court of Appeal, said it was satisfied the High Court had not erred on any of the grounds claimed.
Ryanair had released a heavily redacted version of the report voluntarily and, in opposing the better discovery application by the pilot, was attempting to re-litigate that matter, he said. This was, in the judge's view, an abuse of process and wasted valuable court time, he said.
It followed from that finding that Ryanair was not then entitled to contest the matter on grounds of alleged fishing exercise and relevance/necessity of the report, he said.
He was satisfied no valid or persuasive criticism was made of the High Court's approach to the type of balancing exercise which Ryanair said should have been carried out in making the decision to order the release of the report.
The airline had argued the adverse consequences to the investigation of future incidents involving aircraft with the resultant negative effects on airline safety generally if the full report was released had to outweigh the advantage to Capt Besancon of doing so.
The appeal court also found the High Court was correct in awarding costs of the discovery case against Ryanair. It also awarded the costs of the appeal against the airline.