Luthey v. Kronschnabl

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtFRITZ
Citation1 N.W.2d 799,239 Wis. 375
Decision Date13 January 1942


Appeal from an order of the Circuit Court for Forest County; Arold F. Murphy, Circuit Judge.


Action brought by A. C. Luthey against Herman L. Kronschnabl to recover damages for libel. Defendant demurred to the complaint on the ground that the allegations were insufficient to constitute a cause of action. The court overruled the demurrer and defendant appealed from the order.

Harold W. Krueger and James H. Plier, both of Oconto, for appellant.

Richard J. Ballman, of Green Bay, for respondent.

FRITZ, Justice.

The plaintiff, A. C. Luthey, bases his action for libel on articles published on December 12 and 26, 1940, in the Forest Republican, a newspaper published by the defendant Herman L. Kronschnabl. The allegations in plaintiff's complaint, as far as material on this appeal, are to the following effect. From 1930 to 1934, plaintiff was a member of Forest county highway commission, which purchased machinery and equipment for the county from various manufacturers. Between August, 1939, and November, 1940, much publicity was given in Forest county to alleged fraudulent tax land deals, by which certain county officials and members of the county board were alleged to have profited by fraudulent tax certificates and tax titles purchased from the county, and actions which it brought against them and their bondsmen in relation to the fraudulent deals were settled by the payment of $17,000 to the county in November 1940. Defendant, in connection with commenting on this settlement in an editorial published on December 12, stated, “Now that this case is disposed of let's hope that the members of the Forest county board of supervisors will in the future keep free from petty graft. We all know that in the past members of the county highway committees made rakeoffs by buying road machinery. As a former member once told us when we asked him if machinery agents ever tempted him. His answer was that one had a hard time to keep the agents from stuffing money into your pocket. * * *.”

On December 19 defendant stated in an editorial headed We are Sorry”, “In the editorial last week where the Republican said that in the past members made a rake-off when purchasing road machinery. Someone immediately got the idea that we meant Selmer Jacobson, who was a former member of the highway committee. We wish to make this apology to Mr. Jacobson that we didn't have him in mind * * *. Our reference to highway committees was many years ago and not to present members.”

After that editorial was published plaintiff sent a letter to defendant requesting a retraction as to himself and stated in that connection, “I was on the highway committee many years ago-ten years ago. If you did not refer to me then I shall expect you to so state in your next issue. My reason for this is that several persons have gotten the idea that I am one of the members you refer to as taking a rakeoff on the machinery, because they have mentioned to others that you refer to me as one of the guilty committeemen.”

Defendant published that letter on December 26, 1940, in connection with an editorial stating, “In regard to his letter we had at first not intended to reply to it, but then after attending Christmas Eve services at Wakefield, Michigan, we heard one of the best sermons preached by a missionary which done us a lot of good. Now if Mr. Luthey had attended a Christmas Eve service in any one of the Crandon churches we are sure he would have gotten a lot of good out of it and felt a whole lot better than he did. Now we are going to make our reply mighty short. To be sure we have no proof that you or any other one who had been a member of the Forest county highway committee has ever received a cent commission or rakeoff. * * * The machinery salesmen who usually dish out the money never hire a hall and invite the public to see that a commission is ever paid to one who can get them a sale. That is done behind closed doors or some place where the general public will not get wind of it.”

Plaintiff alleges, as innuendo, that by those statements defendant meant and intended “to charge that plaintiff, while in office as a member of the highway commission, unlawfully and in violation of his oath of office received money illegally and defrauded said Forest county by accepting secret rebates and commissions from the dealers in highway equipment from whom Forest county highway commission had purchased road building machinery and equipment”; and also “to charge the plaintiff with dishonesty in the purchasing of road building equipment while on the highway committee”, and “with carrying on such dishonest and illegal deals secretly, so as not to afford an opportunity to any officer or citizen of the county to directly prove such illegal acts.”

Plaintiff alleges further that the statements above quoted from the editorial of December 26 were published by defendant wilfully and maliciously with intent to...

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11 cases
  • Martin v. Outboard Marine Corp.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • February 6, 1962
    ...libel or slander is capable of a defamatory meaning. Hoan v. Journal Co. (1941), 238 Wis. 311, 298 N.W. 228; Luthey v. Kronschnabl (1942), 239 Wis. 375, 1 N.W.2d 799; Puhr v. Press Publishing Co. (1946), 249 Wis. 456, 25 N.W.2d 62; Meier v. Meurer (1959), 8 Wis.2d 24, 98 N.W.2d 411; DeHusso......
  • Moritz v. Medical Arts Clinic, P. C., 10036
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Dakota
    • January 19, 1982
    ...there is no further question for the jury to determine and the case is ended." This is also the holding in Luthey v. Kronschnabl, 239 Wis. 375, 1 N.W.2d 799 Page 461 (1942) Accord 50 AmJur2d, Libel and Slander, § 22. Normally these authorities contemplate the court making its determination ......
  • Lathan v. Journal Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • March 1, 1966
    ...a communication is capable of a defamatory meaning. Hoan v. Journal Co. (1941), 238 Wis. 311, 298 N.W. 228; Luthey v. Kronschnabl (1942), 239 Wis. 375, 1 N.W.2d 799; Puhr v. Press Publishing Co. (1946), 249 Wis. 456, 25 N.W.2d 62; De Witte v. Kearney & Trecker Corp. (1953), 265 Wis. 132, 13......
  • Thompson v. National Catholic Reporter Pub. Co., 96-C-641.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Wisconsin
    • April 10, 1998
    ...not. Some of the purportedly objectionable phrases do not concern the plaintiff, and are not defamatory per se. See Luthey v. Kronschnabl, 239 Wis. 375, 1 N.W.2d 799, 801 (1942) ("certainty as to the person who is defamed must appear from the words themselves, for no innuendo can render cer......
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