Is there a proprietary interest in emails or their contents? The Court of Appeal decision in Fairstar Heavy Transport v Adkins

The recent Court of Appeal decision in Fairstar v Adkins, the lead judgment being given by Lord Justice Mummery, rejected the analysis of the first instance Judge (Justice Evans-Stuart) that the emails in the possession and control of an agent (acting in transactions of magnitude on behalf of the principal) cannot be delivered up to the principal (pursuant to the principal/agent relationship); on the basis that that the emails or their content had no proprietary character. The Court of Appeal adopted what they considered to be a more correct approach; namely that delivering up such documents was to be decided on the basis of the agent’s duties to its principal, and not analysing claims about whether emails have proprietary character.

Beginning the discussion asking questions like ‘Is there property in an email?’ or ‘Who owns the content of an email?’ was apparently distinctly unhelpful.

Lord Justice Mummery’s judgment is worth a read. The Court of Appeal decision can be read on bailii at:

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/886.html&query=fairstar+and+heavy+and+transport&method=boolean

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