Spangler v. Glover

Decision Date27 June 1957
Docket NumberNo. 33779,33779
Citation50 Wn.2d 473,313 P.2d 354
PartiesBert SPANGLER, Respondent, v. Ray GLOVER et al., Appellants. Harry BALSLEY, Respondent, v. Ray CLOVER et al., Appellants.
CourtWashington Supreme Court

Jay G. Sykes, Lynnwood, for appellants.

H. I. Kyle, Enumclaw, Houghton, Cluck, Coughlin & Henry, Seattle, for respondents.

ROSELLINI, Justice.

These libel actions (consolidated for trial) were brought in the superior court for King county, based upon a publication, which it was alleged the defendants prepared, published, and circulated to the public and to members of the International Woodworkers of America in western Washington generally, and to the members of Local 23-157 in particular. The publication reads:

'What Is Behind the Attempted Recall of Ray Glover?

'The membership of IWA Local 23-157 is faced with the most important decision they have had to make for many years.

'This Issue Is, on the Face of It, Whether Ray Glover Shall Be Recalled from Office. But This Is Not the Real Issue. The Real Issue Is Whether or Not the Membership Desires to Retain Its Union as One That Constantly and Consistently Fights to Maintain and Improve Wages, Hours and Working Conditions.

'The record clearly shows that over the years Ray Glover has served this Local Union that the membership has enjoyed as good or better wages, hours and working conditions as the membership of any Local Union in the IWA or in the industry.

'What Else Does the Record Show?

'It Shows that the Principal and Most Active Sponsers of the Movement ot Recall Ray Glover Have Consistently and Continuously Been Involved in Anti-IWA and Pro-Employer Activities for the Purpose of Securing Individual and Personal Benefits to the Detriment of the Majority of the Membership.

'The Membership of This Local Union Should Know that One of the Larger Employers Footed the Expense of Providing Bus Transportation to Get People Whom He Thought Would Participate in the Program to Eliminate Ray Glover to a Meeting. Any Thinking Member Knows that No Employer Would Do This Unless He Could See Some Profit to Himself in Doing So.

'The membership must also ask themselves who those actively sponsoring the recall movement have in mind for Secretary-Business Agent in the event they are successful in recalling Ray Glover. No name has been mentioned or proposed. No one was a candidate against Ray Glover at the time Local Union Officers were last elected. Ray Glover has pursued no different course since the last election than he pursued for many years previously; namely, fighting at all times in the best interests and for the welfare of the Union and the membership.

'This type of activity, of course, always costs the boss money. Perhaps the employers have someone in mind for the job who will look after their interests instead of those of the membership.

'We Believe that the Employers Already Have Plenty of People Looking after Their Interests. We Want to Continue in Office Those Whose Every Thought over a Period of Years Has Been Devoted to Protecting and Advancing Our Interests.

'We repeat that a most vital decision must be made by the membership. Either we will maintain and improve the wages and conditions we now enjoy by retaining a proven fighter for us in office or we face the very certain possibility of losing them by default in support.

'Every Member Should Participate in Making This Vital Decision. Every Member Must Carefully Weigh the Proven Record of Performance Against the Slanderous Distorting Unfounded Accusations and Downright Lies Being Used to Further the Recall Efforts. Every Member Must Consult His Own Conscience in Determining How He Shall Vote. No One Can Sit on the Sidelines in This Case. The Issues Are Too Important and of Too Long Range Consequences.

'On the Record Ray Glover Has Earned and Deserves Your Vote of Confidence by Your Casting Your Ballot Against His Recall. Vote 'No' and Assure the Continued Progress of the Local Union and the Protection of the Membership.

'This Committee Has Assisted and Worked for the Interests of This Organization Since the Days of Open Shop.

                'Committee for Preserving and Protecting the Union
                 Sam Larson
                 Bob Nelsen
                 Arthur Borell
                 William Arko
                 George Parlari
                 Anthony P. Shay
                 Frem H. Terou
                 Earl DeLano
                 Carl Malatesta
                 Jack Glover
                 Joe Gulan
                 Howard Sherman
                 Robert Blakely
                 Bill Rogers'
                

It was alleged that the leaflet, particularly the following paragraphs, referred to the plaintiffs among others and was so understood by the defendants, by the members of the IWA Local 23-157, and by the public generally:

'It Shows that the Principal and Most Active Sponsers of the Movement to Recall Ray Glover Have Consistently and Continuously Been Involved in Anti-IWA and Pro-Employer Activities for the Purpose of Securing Individual and Personal Benefits to the Detriment of the Majority of the Membership. * * *

'Every Member Must Carefully Weigh the Proven Record of Performance Against the Slanderous Distorting Unfounded Accusations and Downright Lies Being Used to Further the Recall Efforts.'

The plaintiffs further alleged that the quoted statements were false and were published and circulated by the defendants with malicious intent to harm the plaintiffs; that the plaintiffs were, as a result of the publication, subjected to shame and disgrace, hatred, contempt, ridicule and obloquy, deprived of public confidence and their good reputation for honesty and integrity; that they had suffered great mental pain, anguish, and disgrace, were shunned by their friends and associates and were shamed and humiliated. They prayed for general damages in the amount of ten thousand dollars each.

Their demurrer having been overruled, the defendants answered, admitting their status as husbands and wives, admitting the publication of the article, but denying that it was published maliciously and without just grounds and that it was false. By way of affirmative defense, they alleged that the publication concerned union affairs, and was of common interest to the publishers and the recipients, that it was circulated in response to a letter previously circulated by the plaintiffs and others, that it was not activated by hatred, malice, or ill-will, and was therefore privileged.

The case was tried before a jury, which returned verdicts for each of the plaintiffs in the amount of fifteen hundred dollars, having found in answer to special interrogatories that the plaintiffs were among the persons referred to in the publication or among the persons who reasonably would be believed or understood to be the persons referred to in the publication by readers who had some knowledge of the circumstances and conditions existing in the locality where the leaflet was circulated at the time of its publication; that the material complained of was false and not privileged and that both plaintiffs were damaged by reason of the publication.

The assignments of error raise three questions: (1) whether the court erred in ruling that the publication in question is libelous per se; (2) whether it erred in placing the burden of proving the truth of the publication on the defendants; and (3) whether it erred in entering judgment against the defendant wives.

Every publication by writing which tends to expose any living person to hatred, contempt, ridicule or obloquy, or to deprive him of the benefit of public confidence of social intercourse or to injure him in his business or occupation, is libelous per se. Arnold v. National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards Ass'n, 36 Wash.2d 557, 219 P.2d 121; Dick v. Northern Pac. R. Co., 86 Wash. 211, 150 P. 8, Ann.Cas.1917A, 638; Wilson. v. Sun Publishing Co., 85 Wash. 503, 148 P. 774.

Defamatory words spoken of a person, which in themselves prejudice him in his profession, trade, vocation, or office, are slanderous and actionable per se unless they are either true or privileged. Owens v. Scott Publishing Co., 46 Wash.2d 666, 284 P.2d 296; Yelle v. Cowles Publishing Co., 46 Wash.2d 105, 278 P.2d 671; Miles v. Louis Wasmer, Inc., 172 Wash. 466, 20 P.2d 847.

In Arnold v. National Union of Marine Cooks and Stewards Ass'n, supra, we held that a letter sent by a union agent to various branches of the union, labeling the persons named on a list attached thereto 'renegades' and stating that they had deserted the union during a strike and attempted to organize a dual organization for the purpose of breaking the strike and destroying the union, was libelous per se. In Dick v. Northern Pace. R. Co., supra, we held libelous per se a letter published by an employer, stating that the plaintiff employee had intimidated other employees.

It is argued that the publication does no more than accuse the plaintiffs of entertaining a viewpoint which is unpopular among its intended readers. If this were the extent of the accusation, we would be inclined to hold that the publication falls short of libel per se. However, it goes much further and proclaims that:

'It (the record) Shows that the Principal and Most Active Sponsers of the Movement to Recall Ray Glover Have Consistently and Continuously Been Involved in Anti-IWA, Anti-Union and Pro-Employer Activities for the Purpose of Securing Individual and Personal Benefits to the Detriment of the Majority of the Membership.'

The paragraphs of the leaflet which follow enlarge upon this theme:

'The Membership of This Local Union Should Know that One of the Larger Employers Footed the Expense of Providing Bus Transportation to Get People Whom He Thought Would Participate in the Program to Eliminate Ray Glover to a Meeting. Any Thinking Member Knows That No Employer Would Do This Unless He Could See Some Profit to Himself in Doing So.

'The membership must also ask themselves who those actively sponsoring the recall movement have in mind for Secretary-Business Agent in the event they are successful in recalling Ray Glover. No...

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    ...Co., 72 Wash.2d 999, 436 P.2d 756 (1967) ; Purvis v. Bremer's, Inc., 54 Wash.2d 743, 751, 344 P.2d 705 (1959) ; Spangler v. Glover, 50 Wash.2d 473, 313 P.2d 354 (1957) ; Wood v. Battle Ground Sch. Dist., 107 Wash.App. 550, 573–74, 27 P.3d 1208 (2001) ; Maison de France, Ltd. v. Mais Oui!, I......
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    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • 10 Novembre 2021
    ...that the persons knowing him could and did understand that he was the one referred to in the publication. Spangler v. Glover , 50 Wash.2d 473, 313 P.2d 354, 358–59 (1957) (en banc); accord Restatement (Second) of Torts § 564 cmt. b (1977).This principle applies here. Sawant did not identify......
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1 books & journal articles
  • Libel: Taskett v. King Broadcasting Co.-a New Washington Standard
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 1-01, September 1977
    • Invalid date
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