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Fired Cathay Pacific Pilots Lose Appeal Damages Decrease

Hong Kong’s top court rejected an appeal against a cut in defamation damages owed to a group of former Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. pilots who were fired in 2001 during an industrial dispute.

The court upheld a cut in damages to HK$700,000 ($90,279) each from HK$3 million that was made by a lower court in 2010. It also ruled against the pilots’ request to reinstate awards of HK$300,000 each for aggravated damages.

“The Court of Appeal were right to conclude that the award of $3 million to each plaintiff could not stand,” Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury wrote in a Court of Final Appeal judgment released today. The other four judges agreed.

The more than decade-long legal dispute centered on 18 pilots who were among 49 fired by Cathay on a single day in 2001. The group in November 2009 won a total award of HK$58.7 million, including damages for defamatory statements made about them during the dispute. That was subsequently reduced by the Court of Appeal.

The top court today upheld an award of HK$150,000 per pilot for being fired because of their perceived participation in union activities. It also reinstated the original trial judge’s award of a month’s pay for wrongful dismissal.

It also reinstated an order that Cathay should pay the pilots legal costs for the original trial.

Each of the 18 pilots, except Gregory Stephen England who is deceased, will receive the defamation payment. Each, except George Crofts who won a separate award from a U.K. court, will receive the payment for having been unfairly fired.

The case is Blakeney-Williams Campbell Richard and Others v. Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. and Others, FACV13/2011 in the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.

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