In the case where a plaintiff is seeking payment and the defendant alleges that the debt has been paid, the defendant must prove the payment. This was decided by Magistrate Dr Gabrielle Vella in Blue Media Marketing Limited -v- Anton sive Claude Camilleri on 26 July, 2017.
The plaintiff company filed an action against Camilleri for a claim of Euro 10,307.50 for the payment of advertising and publishing of articles.
Camilleri filed a statement of defence, where he explained that he had written the articles himself and that the advertising is not due.
The Court had pointed out that the defendant in his submissions, stated that the plaintiff company no longer pursued the original claim for articles and adverts, but converted the claim to advertorials and as a result the claim should be turned down. The defendant had quoted from a previous judgment Melita Cable plc -v- Malta Communications Authority decided by the Court of Appeal of 13 February, 2009, which held that the court is barred from deciding upon claims which are not included in the original claim. The Court further pointed out that this particular case concerned an administrative dispute and not a civil law case. Therefore, if the Court is convinced that the defendant had to pay for advertorials and not strictly adverts and articles, then the claim may still be upheld.
Regarding the merits of the case, the plaintiff company had produced copies of the advertorials published on Skylife magazine for a number of months in 2007, 2008 and 2009 together with invoices sent to Camilleri of Euro 1,030.75 each. Magistrate Vella held that she was satisfied with this evidence that Camilleri owed the company.
The Court held in its judgment that if the defendant is claiming that the debt is paid or not owed then he should produce the evidence. The general principle at law is that who alleges must prove. This is derived from Article 562 of the Code of Organization and Civil Procedure. In this particular case, the defendant is claiming that the invoices are not due because, he was giving in the articles and the adverts were not according to the level agreed.
Camilleri explained that he is a restaurant owner and a journalist and he showed the Court a number of magazines he contributed to. He explained that in these magazines which are published abroad, he would have been contacted by the publisher and would have been paid for them. With regard to Skylife, Camilleri explained that he had stopped contributing articles and when this took place, he was contacted in order to advertise on the same magazine.
He refused the offer, but the offer was changed in the sense that he would continue to contribute articles and he would be able to mention his restaurant. He did not consider these as advertorials.
The Court pointed out that the defendant’s version was contradicted by the fact that he paid Euro 1,030.75 per month from November 2007 to February 2009. It seems that he was not realizing that these payments were being made and his accountant explained that he was paying for a listing. But the claim of plus Euro 10,000 was not for listing but for full page adverts. Camilleri explained that he did not realize that these adverts were being published. However, the cheques were being signed by the defendant. These contradictions convinced the court that the company’s claim is due.
The Court ordered the defendant to pay the full claim to the plaintiff company.
Dr Malcolm Mifsud
Mifsud & Mifsud Advocates
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