1.Vide a Plaint dated February 25, 2021, the plaintiffs sued thedefendant for alleged defamation and sought for a permanent injunction to restrain the defendant by herself or her agents or otherwise from publishing any further or similar defamatory material concerning them; general damages; exemplary damages; aggravated damages; costs of the suit and interest.
2.The plaintiffs’ claim was that on September 21, 2019, the defendant falsely and maliciously published posts which were defamatory of them on her Facebook page known as ‘Linda Mein Long’ as follows:
3.They pleaded that whereas the Facebook posts did not refer to them by their names, their family, friends, professional colleagues and employers knew that the defendant was referring to them in view of dispute regarding the management of Kas Kazi Properties Limited (hereafter “the Company”) which owns the subject property, a hotel in Malindi. They pleaded that the publications were defamatory of them both in their natural and ordinary meaning and also by innuendo. According to them, the offending words were understood to mean that: they were criminals, land grabbers, illegally in acquisition of 74% shares in the company, Punjabi bastards, people who illegally broke into the defendant’s home and evicted her and that they are unethical, unprofessional and unscrupulous persons.
4.They contended that the defendant published the offending posts knowing fully well that the same would be consumed by the society generally. Further, the plaintiffs claimed that the posts were malicious and their reputation, image, credit, integrity and status as career businessmen and professionals have been substantially damaged by the offending publications. As a consequence, they have suffered grave mental anguish, public ridicule, odium and societal ostracization in the eyes of right thinking members of the society and within the area where the hotel is located. Lastly, that the defendant has failed and/or refused to publish an apology on her Facebook page despite demands by the plaintiffs.
5.An interlocutory judgment was entered in default of appearance and defence by the defendant on June 22, 2021. Thereafter, the case proceeded to formal proof.
6.PW1, Ravinder Singh Grewal, the 1st plaintiff herein adopted his Witness Statement dated February 25, 2021as part of his testimony and produced the plaintiffs list and bundle of documents. He testified that he is an engineer and manages a family business known as Kehar Transport. He got to know the defendant in early 2019. It was his testimony that he was shocked by the Facebook posts since he never defrauded the defendant of her property nor evicted her therefrom. He stated that the defendant’s husband, Tony Long, sold to him his 50% shareholding in the Company in 2019 and he paid him in dollars. He was under the impression that the defendant had discussed the matter with her husband but the defendant later told him that she believed the transaction was highly illegal.
7.According to PW1, the offending post portrayed him as a murderer yet he is an honest, sincere and straightforward professional who controls lots of businesses. As a consequence of the offending post, he and his family have suffered ridicule and his reputation has been eroded. Among the documents produced by PW1 were the publication in question, letters and affidavits written to the Registrar of Companies to confirm their shareholding and directorship of the Company and a demand letter to the defendant to pull down the offending posts.
8.PW2, Haminder Singh Grewal, the 2nd plaintiff herein also adopted his witness statement dated February 25, 2021 as part of his testimony. He testified that he is a businessman and works with the 1st Plaintiff in the transport business. He stated that the Facebook posts are false and malicious since the defendant was well aware of all the changes in the management of the company. It was his testimony that he has known the defendant since May 2017 when he loaned her some money and she used her shares in the company as collateral. Upon her failure to repay the loan, the defendant transferred 24% of her shares, equivalent to 240 shares, to him on 6th May 2018 and appointed him as a director of the Company. In support, PW2 relied on various documents in the plaintiffs List and Bundle of documents inter alia, a letter to the Registrar of Companies from the defendant, minutes of a meeting held in May 2017, copy of agreement for transfer of stock, the company’s CR6 signifying his appointment as director and the company’s annual return for 2018.
9.PW2 further testified that he invested a lot in improving the property to a state where rooms were to be let out. Further, according to PW2, since the publication of the online posts which the Defendant has refused to pull down, he has suffered damages. He has also been ridiculed for partnering with criminals and has developed anxiety which has affected his health.
Analysis and Determination
10.I have considered evidence tendered by the Plaintiffs, the written submissions as well as the authorities cited. The following are the issues arising for determination:
Whether the Plaintiffs have made a case for defamation against the Defendant
11.In their written submissions, the plaintiffs contended that they have established a case for defamation against the Defendant. They referred to the case of Musikari Kombo v Royal Media Services Limited  eKLR where the court set down the ingredients of the tort of defamation. It was their submission that the offending statements clearly referred to the Plaintiffs and, in their natural and ordinary meaning, were understood to mean that the Plaintiffs illegally acquired 74% of the shares in the company, which is false and malicious. They also maintained that the defendant published the defamatory statements.
13.Patrick O'Callaghan in the Common Law Series: The Law of Tort at paragraph 25.1 stated that the law of defamation is primarily concerned with the protection of a person’s reputation and not his or her character.
15.To begin with, the plaintiffs’ uncontroverted evidence has established that the Defendant published the statements on her Facebook handle.
16.Were the statements complained of defamatory? In S M W v Z W M  eKLR the Court of Appeal stated as follows:
17.In Halsbury’s Laws of England 4th Edition Vol. 28 at page 23 the authors opined:
19.This court holds the view that the Facebook posts were indeed defamatory and referred to the plaintiffs. The defendant stated in the said posts that the people who were taking her house at Kas Kazi were some Indians from Nairobi who had illegally acquired 74% of her company. The plaintiffs, who are of Indian origin, have tendered uncontroverted evidence to show that they acquired a total of 74% of the shares in Kas Kazi Property Services Limited from the defendant and her husband in 2018 and 2019 and are currently directors in the company alongside the defendant. Any reasonable person who knows the Plaintiffs and their involvement in the company would readily conclude that the Facebook posts referred to them even though their names were not mentioned therein.
20.Further, on a plain reading of the Facebook posts, it can be imputed that the Plaintiffs fraudulently obtained 74% of the shares in Kas Kazi Property Services Limited and had illegally evicted the defendant from the subject property. This is also the innuendo that according to the Plaintiffs, would be deduced from the offending posts by a reasonable person consuming them as pleaded at paragraph 7 of the Plaint. I therefore find that the plaintiffs reputations were indeed injured as a result of the offending publications.
21.Further, as the plaintiffs have produced evidence to show how they acquired their respective shareholding in the Company, I find that they have sufficiently established that the Facebook posts were false and malicious.
22.For the foregoing, the court finds that the Plaintiffs have proved their case on a balance of probability against the Defendant.
Whether the Plaintiff are entitled to the reliefs sought
23.On the prayer for a permanent injunction against the Defendant, the Plaintiffs did not advance any arguments in that regard, hence the court is not inclined to make any orders to that effect.
24.On damages, it is well settled that an award of damages in defamation cases is discretionary. The court of Appeal in C A M v Royal Media Services Limited  eKLR stated that:
26.As regards general damages, the Plaintiffs urged that an award of Kshs. 4,000,000/= for each of them would be adequate compensation. This, according to them, is in view of the fact that they run a prestigious steel fabrication company known as Kehar, a market leader in the transport sector and owing to the fact that the offending posts were widely circulated to the Defendant’s audience and close friends in the United Kingdom where the Plaintiffs’ relatives also reside. In support, they relied on the case Arthur Papa Odera v Peter O. Ekisa  eKLR where the court awarded the plaintiff general damages of Kshs. 2 million.
27.On aggravated damages, the Plaintiffs urged the court to award them Kshs 3,000,000/= for the continuing injury to their reputation caused by the Defendant’s refusal to pull down the publication and proffer any apology despite a demand to do so. Reliance was placed on the case of Ken Odondi & 2 others v James Okoth Omburah t/a Okoth Omburah & Company Advocates  eKLR where the Court of Appeal upheld an award for exemplary damages since the appellants therein had refused to retract the offending article or apologise.
28.In assessing damages in this case, the court notes that the Plaintiffs did not provide any proof of their alleged market leading business and how it has been affected by the defamation. However, the court has taken cognizance of the fact that the defamatory post was circulated worldwide and within the country, specifically in Malindi, in view of the platform used and the numerous comments and/or exchanges thereon. It has also considered the fact that there was no apology or retraction of the offending posts by the defendant despite a demand having been issued in that regard by the Plaintiffs’ advocates.
29.In the case of Ben Kangangi v Anerlisa Muigai  eKLR, a businessman who was defamed by social media posts was awarded a global sum of Kshs. 2,000,000/- in damages. In Mary Koli Kitonga v Ghetto Radio Limited  eKLR, the court awarded a plaintiff who was defamed via Facebook general damages of Kshs. 700,000/- and exemplary damages of Kshs. 200,000/- while in the case of Charles Kinoti Akwalu v Josephine Kananu Nkwene  eKLR, a composite award of Kshs. 1,000,000/- was given to a business person defamed through a similar medium. In my view, these cases involved persons whose societal status is comparable to that of the Plaintiffs.
30.In the premises, a composite award of Kshs. 1,500,000/- each in damages shall be adequate compensation for each of the Plaintiffs.Consequently, judgment is hereby entered for the Plaintiffs against the Defendant in the sum of Kshs. 1,500,000/= each plus costs of the suit and interest at court rates from the date of this judgment.Orders accordingly.