Dijkstra v. Westerink

CourtNew Jersey Superior Court – Appellate Division
Citation401 A.2d 1118,168 N.J.Super. 128
Decision Date09 May 1979
PartiesGerrit J. DIJKSTRA and Marie Dijkstra, his wife, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. Jan WESTERINK, Defendant-Respondent.

Page 128

168 N.J.Super. 128
401 A.2d 1118
Gerrit J. DIJKSTRA and Marie Dijkstra, his wife, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Jan WESTERINK, Defendant-Respondent.
Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division.
Submitted March 27, 1979.
Decided May 9, 1979.

[401 A.2d 1119]

Page 131

Brenman & Piper, Paterson, for plaintiffs-appellants (Martin N. Piper, Paterson, on the brief).

Morris & Hantman, Denville, for defendant-respondent (Allen Hantman, Denville, on the brief).

Before Judges LYNCH, CRANE and HORN.

Page 132

The opinion of the court was delivered by

LYNCH, P. J. A. D. (retired, temporarily assigned).

Gerrit J. Dijkstra 1 instituted an action against defendant Jan Westerink for libel and slander, malicious use and abuse of process and invasion of privacy. Dijkstra claimed that defendant falsely accused him, in a statement to the police, of being the assailant in an attempted shooting of defendant.

After defendant had reported to the authorities that he found a bullet hole in the wall of his garage, the police began an investigation. Defendant gave a statement to the police which named Dijkstra as an "enemy" and which implicated him in the alleged crime. After further investigation of Dijkstra the police issued a search warrant and executed it at plaintiff's home. Plaintiff alleges defendant initiated the police investigation which resulted in the search and caused Dijkstra and his wife to lose most of their friends.

At trial, plaintiff and his wife testified. Defendant's motion to dismiss the complaint at the end of plaintiff's case was granted. This appeal followed.

[401 A.2d 1120] We affirm the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, but we do so for reasons other than those given by the trial judge.

A

As to libel and slander.

In an oral opinion the trial judge gave these reasons for granting defendant's motion for involuntary dismissal: (1) defendant in his statement to the police did not name plaintiff as the assailant, but rather plaintiff's name was suggested by the police; (2) there was no evidence that the statement was false, and (3) defendant's statement to the police was absolutely privileged.

Page 133

(1)

Identification of plaintiff in defendant's statement.

It is true that in the earlier part of his statement to the police defendant hesitated to name plaintiff as the one who shot at him. Later in the statement the police suggested the name of Dijkstra and defendant stated: " * * * that is the name I am thinking of * * *."

In any event the actual naming of plaintiff is not a necessary element in an action for libel. It is enough that there is such reference to him that those who read or hear the libel reasonably understand the plaintiff to be the person intended. Restatement, Torts 2d, § 564, Comment (a) (1977); Prosser, Law of Torts (4 ed. 1971), § 111 at 749 (hereafter cited as Prosser ); see Gnapinsky v. Goldyn, 23 N.J. 243, 253, 128 A.2d 697 (1957); Mick v. American Dental Ass'n, 49 N.J.Super. 262, 286, 139 A.2d 570 (App.Div.1958); Kilpatrick v. Edge, 85 N.J.L. 7, 88 A. 839 (Sup.Ct.1913). See also, Coleman v. Newark Morning Ledger Co., 29 N.J. 357, 149 A.2d 193 (1959), where plaintiff was not named and the issue as to identification was not even raised.

Here there was sufficient reference to Dijkstra in defendant's statement for the issue of identification to be submitted to the jury if the case were to reach that point. Therefore, this ground of the trial judge's decision was erroneous.

(2)

Alleged lack of proof that defendant's statement was false.

The words sued upon charged the commission of a crime. Therefore they were defamatory and libelous Per se. As said in Odgers, The Law of Libel and Slander (2 ed. 1887), 130 (hereinafter cited as Odgers ):

The falsehood of all defamatory words is presumed in plaintiff's favour, and he need give no evidence to show they are false; * * *.

Page 134

See also Prosser, supra, § 19 at 798; Bigelow, A Digest of the Law of Libel and Slander (1 ed. 1881) 155; Gatley on Libel and Slander (5 ed. 1960), § 254 at 154 (hereafter cited as Gatley ); 50 Am.Jur.2d, Libel and Slander, § 464 at 988 (1970).

Since falsity of defendant's statement was presumed, the trial judge erred in holding that plaintiff must prove that defendant's words were false.

(3)

The defense of privilege.

The absolute privilege found by the trial judge was based upon his concept that defendant's statement was part of a judicial proceeding. His reasoning was that defendant's statement was the basis on which the police applied for and obtained a search warrant for the search of plaintiff's home. As the judge put it: "The legal proceedings started when the police started their investigation to determine whether or not they would apply for a search warrant."

We disagree. The obtaining of defendant's statement by the...

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29 practice notes
  • Dairy Stores, Inc. v. Sentinel Pub. Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • October 21, 1986
    ...citizens have a qualified privilege to make statements to authorities for the prevention and detection of crime. Dijkstra v. Westerink, 168 N.J.Super. 128, 134-36, 401 A.2d 1118 (App.Div.), certif. denied, 81 N.J. 329, 407 A.2d 1203 (1979). We have also recognized a qualified privilege of t......
  • Vassallo v. Bell
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • December 3, 1987
    ...of actual malice. See Dairy Stores, Inc. v. Sentinel Publishing Co., supra, 104 N.J. at 148-151, 516 A.2d 220; Dijkstra v. Westerink, 168 N.J.Super. 128, 136, 401 A.2d 1118 (App.Div.1979), certif. den. 81 N.J. 329, 407 A.2d 1203 (1979). Dairy Stores settled the law that actual malice is def......
  • Crump v. Beckley Newspapers, Inc., No. 15804
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 10, 1983
    ...Inc., 397 So.2d 1109 (Miss.1981); McCall v. Courier-Journal and Louisville Times Co., 623 S.W.2d 882 (Ky.1981); Dijkstra v. Westerink, 168 N.J.Super. 128, 401 A.2d 1118 (1979); Devlin v. Greiner, 147 N.J.Super. 446, 371 A.2d 380 (1977); Froelich v. Adair, 213 Kan. 357, 516 P.2d 993 6 This "......
  • Fenelon v. Superior Court, No. D011414
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 20, 1990
    ...214 N.E.2d 57, 59; Brown v. P. N. Hirsch & Co., Stores, Inc. (Mo.App.1983) 661 S.W.2d 587, 591; Dijkstra v. Westerink (App.Div.1979) 168 N.J.Super. 128, 401 A.2d 1118, 1120-1121; Toker v. Pollak (1978) 44 N.Y.2d 211, 405 N.Y.S.2d 1, 6-7, 376 N.E.2d 163, 168-169; Towne v. Cope (1977) 32 N.C.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • Dairy Stores, Inc. v. Sentinel Pub. Co., Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (New Jersey)
    • October 21, 1986
    ...citizens have a qualified privilege to make statements to authorities for the prevention and detection of crime. Dijkstra v. Westerink, 168 N.J.Super. 128, 134-36, 401 A.2d 1118 (App.Div.), certif. denied, 81 N.J. 329, 407 A.2d 1203 (1979). We have also recognized a qualified privilege of t......
  • Vassallo v. Bell
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • December 3, 1987
    ...of actual malice. See Dairy Stores, Inc. v. Sentinel Publishing Co., supra, 104 N.J. at 148-151, 516 A.2d 220; Dijkstra v. Westerink, 168 N.J.Super. 128, 136, 401 A.2d 1118 (App.Div.1979), certif. den. 81 N.J. 329, 407 A.2d 1203 (1979). Dairy Stores settled the law that actual malice is def......
  • Crump v. Beckley Newspapers, Inc., No. 15804
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • November 10, 1983
    ...Inc., 397 So.2d 1109 (Miss.1981); McCall v. Courier-Journal and Louisville Times Co., 623 S.W.2d 882 (Ky.1981); Dijkstra v. Westerink, 168 N.J.Super. 128, 401 A.2d 1118 (1979); Devlin v. Greiner, 147 N.J.Super. 446, 371 A.2d 380 (1977); Froelich v. Adair, 213 Kan. 357, 516 P.2d 993 6 This "......
  • Fenelon v. Superior Court, No. D011414
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 20, 1990
    ...214 N.E.2d 57, 59; Brown v. P. N. Hirsch & Co., Stores, Inc. (Mo.App.1983) 661 S.W.2d 587, 591; Dijkstra v. Westerink (App.Div.1979) 168 N.J.Super. 128, 401 A.2d 1118, 1120-1121; Toker v. Pollak (1978) 44 N.Y.2d 211, 405 N.Y.S.2d 1, 6-7, 376 N.E.2d 163, 168-169; Towne v. Cope (1977) 32 N.C.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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