McCuddin v. Dickinson, 45311.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtSTIGER, Justice.
Citation300 N.W. 308,230 Iowa 1141
Docket Number45311.
Decision Date21 October 1941

300 N.W. 308

230 Iowa 1141


No. 45311.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

October 21, 1941

Appeal from District Court, Warren County; W. S. Cooper, Judge.

An action to recover damages for libel. Verdict for plaintiff. Defendant appealed.


Hall & Ewalt, of Indianola, for appellant.

J. O. Watson, Jr., of Indianola, for appellee. [300 N.W. 309]

STIGER, Justice.

This is the second time this case has been before us. See McCuddin v. Dickinson, 226 Iowa 304, 283 N.W. 886. The petition stated in substance that the publication charged that plaintiff was a liar and a perjurer. Defendant admitted and pleaded the truth of the publication as a defense to the action.


Appellant's assignment of error is that the court erred in giving Instruction No. 10.

Instruction No. 10. " It being presumed by law that said article in charging plaintiff with being a liar, and committing perjury is libelous of itself, it is presumed by law that it is false, that its publication was malicious, and that the plaintiff was damaged thereby, and the burden is upon defendant to overcome these presumptions by the proof. If said statements were true, and if they were published in good faith and for good motives, then the defendant would not be liable. But even if said statements were true, but they were not published by the defendant in good faith and for good motives, that would constitute no defense, and there being no evidence in this case of the proper motive of the defendant in publishing said statement, there is no complete defense, and your verdict will be for the plaintiff in some sum . But it will be proper for you to consider the truth or falsity of the charges made in fixing the amount of damages which you award." (Italics supplied.)

Appellant objects to the italicized portion of the instruction. It was reversible error to state that to constitute a complete defense it was necessary, in addition to the truth, the statements be published in good faith and with good motives.

The general rule is in civil actions of libel or slander, in the absence of a statute to the contrary, the truth of the defamatory words is a complete defense. 36 C. J., page 1231, section 193; 33 Am.Jur., page 117, section 117. This almost universal rule is the law in this state. Children v. Shinn, 168 Iowa 531, at page 547, 150 N.W. 864; Salinger v. Cowles, 195 Iowa 873, 191 N.W. 167; Mowry v. Reinking, 203 Iowa 628, 213 N.W. 274; Rhynas v. Adkisson, 178 Iowa 287, 159 N.W. 877; Morse v. Times-Republican Printing Co., 124 Iowa 707, 100 N.W. 867. There is no statute in this state affecting the common law rule above stated.

At common law the truth of a libel was not a defense in criminal prosecutions. However, this rule has been abrogated by statute in this state. Section 13259, 1939 Code, reads: " 13259 Truth given in evidence. In all...

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