Arnott v. Standard Ass'n

Decision Date20 July 1888
Citation57 Conn. 86,17 A. 361
CourtConnecticut Supreme Court

Appeal from superior court, Hartford county; TORRANCE, Judge.

Action for libel by James L. Arnott against the Standard Association. Verdict for defendant, and plaintiff appeals, assigning errors in the rulings of the court.

W. C. Case and D. L. Aberdein, for appellant. A. P. Hyde and J. P. Andrews, for appellee.

PARDEE, J The plaintiff was an unsuccessful applicant for the office of postmaster. Mr. W. W. Eaton opposed his appointment. Concerning the matter, the defendant published, in a newspaper called the "Bridgeport Daily Standard," the following words: "Mr. Eaton might indorse a partisan, and would be more likely to do so than not; but he would not knowingly indorse a thief, a jailbird, or a sneak like Arnott." The defendant admitted the publication; also that the plaintiff was the Arnott referred to; also that there was no reason for the application of either of the epithets "thief" or "jail-bird" to him; and denied that there was any such application, either in fact or intent; insisting that every person of ordinary intelligence would understand that these were applied to some unnamed persons, and that only the epithet "sneak" was applied to him; justifying this last. Upon the trial to the jury, notwithstanding the plaintiff's objection, the court, as tending to prove the absence of malice, but not for the purpose of construing or modifying the language, allowed the author of the publication to testify that he did not therein intend to charge the plaintiff with being either a "thief" or a "jail-bird;" also allowed the defendant to disavow these epithets, and prove the truth of the epithet "sneak;" also, as tending to prove absence of malice, allowed the defendant to read to the jury the following publication made in the Springfield Republican, a daily paper published in Springfield, Mass., prior to the publication by the defendant of the words complained of, namely: "The democrats think they have virtually 'fixed' Arnott's post-office aspirations. Elam O. French was sent to Washington to urge the charges against Arnott. Dr. Pease is with him, and both men are quite harmonious in their effort to defeat the nominee. Thirteen specific charges of dishonesty in politics are made against him. It is not denied now that since 1872 his expenses have been paid by the republican party while he came home and voted the democratic ticket, when he voted any. This piece of news came like a thunderbolt upon his republican backers." Two other articles of like character from the same paper, both published before the libelous article was written, were also read to the jury by the defendant. The writer of the libelous article had previously mentioned the Hartford Times, New Haven Palladium, and, as we understand the finding, the Springfield Republican, or articles taken from it, as sources of his information. The defendant had a verdict. The plaintiff appeals.

The statute (Gen. St. § 1116) provides as follows: "In every action for a libel the defendant may give proof of intention; and unless the plaintiff shall prove either malice in fact * * * he shall recover nothing but such actual damage as he may have specially alleged and proved." At common law it is in some cases the right of the defendant in an action for libel, under proper pleadings, to prove his intention, for the purpose of rebutting wholly or in some measure the malice presumed by law or attempted to be proven. For instance, under the general issue the defendant might prove in justification that the publication was a privileged communication, and such facts and...

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8 cases
  • Proto v. Bridgeport Herald Corp.
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • 11 April 1950
    ...not for this purpose be varied or enlarged by innuendo. Ventresca v. Kissner, 105 Conn. 533, 535, 136 A. 90; Arnott v. Standard Association, 57 Conn. 86, 93, 17 A. 361, 3 L.R.A. 69. Two of the general classes of libel which, it is generally recognized, are actionable per se are (1) libels c......
  • Hogan v. New York Times Company
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • 19 July 1962
    ...v. Stevenson, 27 Conn. 14, 25-29 (1858). Cf. 1 Harper & James, Torts § 5.19, at 408-410 (1956). 32 Arnott v. Standard Ass'n, 57 Conn. 86, 92-94, 17 A. 361, 361-362, 3 L.R.A. 69 (1888); Moore v. Stevenson, supra note 31, at 33 "At common law a retraction does not exonerate the defamer, unles......
  • Dongguk Univ. v. Yale Univ.
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
    • 10 February 2012
    ...words [are] to be interpreted according to the common understanding, and not at all by the intent of the author." Arnott v. Standard Ass'n, 17 A. 361, 362 (Conn. 1888). It is for the Court to decide whether the defendant's statements were capable of bearing a defamatory meaning, and it is f......
  • Craney v. Donovan
    • United States
    • Connecticut Supreme Court
    • 15 December 1917 the action of slander, and damages to a great extent depend upon its existence in fact." And in Arnott v. Standard Ass'n, 57 Conn. 86, 93, 17 Atl. 361, 362 (3 L. R. A. 69), it is said: "Damages are to be graduated by the degree to which the motive is unjustifiable and improper." In the f......
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