On Thursday, an Irish businessman won a historic libel suit against his own company, related to a 2007 incident where he repeatedly showed up at his secretary's door, nude and in the middle of the night, during a business trip to Mozambique. The man, Donal Kinsella, claims to be a chronic sleepwalker, and says the incident has been blown out of proportion by colleagues trying to smear his character. Here's a breakdown of the major points of this story, arguably the biggest news item of our time or any other.
One Night in Mozambique In May 2007, Kinsella, then a company director at the Irish mining company Kenmare Resources, traveled to Mozambique on business with several of his colleagues, including Deirdre Corcoran, a Kenmare secretary. One night, Kinsella appeared three times at Corcoran's door, evidently naked. At least once, he was told to go back to bed by another employee. Kinsella also appeared at the doors of two male colleagues that night. Reports indicate that Kinsella, like everyone else in his party, had had "a reasonable amount to drink" that night, and that he was also taking strong painkillers at the time.
A Reputation Besmirched Kinsella claims not to have remembered the incident, saying he didn't hear about it until two weeks later. In July 2007, Kenmare issued a suggestive press release that implied Kinsella had acted inappropriately toward Corcoran without providing details. The press release indicated that Kenmare would seek Kinsella's resignation from the audit committee he sat on. Kinsella says that he quickly became a "laughing stock" at home and abroad; Irish online newspaper The Journal reports that "as a result of the press release, his family had suspected he was a sexual predator, Kinsella said, and he had been the butt of many jokes at social gatherings – including at the Galway Races where people had sang, 'Yes, we have no pyjamas' to him."
This Is a Power Play Kinsella has maintained that his superiors at Kenmare were using the sleepwalking incident to sully his name and cut the legs out from under him at the company. Kinsella "said he suspected the incident in Africa was given more importance than it deserved," RTÉ News reports. "He said he believed the incident was being used to reduce his status in the company in order to give control to chairman Charles Carville and his son Michael. He said he had been a non-executive director and the only independent voice on the board."
The Mosquito-Net Defense Kinsella claimed during his trial that Corcoran probably couldn't even see that he was naked at the time. "Mr Kinsella said that Ms Corcoran has bad eyesight and was underneath six layers of mosquito nets in a poorly lit building," reports RTÉ News. "He believed she was later informed that he was naked and that she was 'set up' to make a complaint by the Managing Director Michael Carville. He said Ms Corcoran showed no sign the following day that he had offended her and was perfectly nice to him."
Anyway, Here's 10 Million Euros The jury awarded Kinsella €10 million, or about $13.6 million, a payout more than five times larger than any other libel case in Irish history. When given the verdict, the judge first paused and said, "Correct me if I'm mistaken," before reading it aloud. Counsel for Kenmare called the settlement "off the Richter scale." In the press, the sum has caused jaws to drop. "Ireland may be desperately short of cash these days," writes David McKittrick for The Independent, "but one Irish businessman has just been awarded €10m (£8.5m) in a spectacular libel victory in the Dublin courts."