Turner v. Brien

Citation167 N.W. 584,184 Iowa 320
Decision Date17 May 1918
Docket NumberNo. 32057.,32057.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa

184 Iowa 320
167 N.W. 584


No. 32057.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

May 17, 1918.

Appeal from Municipal Court of Des Moines; J. E. Meyer, Judge.

Action for libel. Verdict and judgment for the plaintiff. Defendant appeals. Opinion states the facts. Affirmed.

[167 N.W. 584]

Dunshee, Haines & Brody, of Des Moines, for appellant.

S. B. Allen, of Des Moines, for appellee.


This is an action for libel. Plaintiff is a laboring man. Defendant runs a grocery store. During the years 1914 and 1915, plaintiff became indebted to the defendant for groceries, and appears not to have been able, or not to have been willing, to pay. Thereupon defendant refused him further credit, and plaintiff went elsewhere for his groceries. Plaintiff claims that his failure to pay was due to the fact that the defendant had overcharged him, and was insisting on $20 when there was in fact but $16 due; that he offered to pay the $16, but refused to pay the $20; that the defendant

[167 N.W. 585]

insisting on the $20, threatened him with personal violence, and also threatened to see that plaintiff lost his job. The record shows a clear dispute between the parties as to the amount due, and there is controversy as to the reasons assigned by the plaintiff for refusal or neglect to pay. While this controversy was on, the defendant caused to be published in a pamphlet issued by a certain trust book and credit company, the following:

                ¦Turner John R., pkr., 802 e 23d¦37--$20.00¦

This was afterwards superseded by a bound volume, which was issued on the 24th day of November, 1915, and in the bound volume appeared:

                ¦John Turner. Watch, 802 23d Court¦MSR¦

The publication contained a key which explained the language used as follows:

“M--Medium Pay. S--Slow Pay. R--Party reporting would require cash in future dealings.”

The figure “37” appearing in the first report before the figures “$20” indicates the party conveying the information to the credits company for publication, and this record shows that the person so indicated was the defendant in this suit. The explanation given by a witness who had knowledge of the internal workings of this credit company is that the report indicates that on the 23d day of February, 1915, the defendant reported that the plaintiff was indebted to him in the sum of $20. The letter “R” indicates that the defendant reported that he would not extend further credit to the plaintiff; that he would require cash. This publication was made by the company for the enlightenment of retail dealers from whom plaintiff might desire to make purchases. Each subscriber to this company receives one of these publications with a key explaining the meaning of the entries opposite the name of each party complained of. In the fall of 1915, the plaintiff made arrangements with the defendant to pay this account, and completed his payment in the month of January, 1916. He paid the sum of $16 in full of the account. These publications still appeared in the bound volume, unchanged, after the arrangements had been made for payment and after payment was made. Plaintiff claims that after these publications were made he was refused credit by various merchants; that said publications were intended to, and did, provoke the plaintiff to wrath, and did deprive him of the benefit of public confidence and intercourse, and exposed him to public hatred and ridicule, and that said publication was made for the purpose of disgracing this plaintiff among the retail dealers of Des Moines, and that it had the effect intended; that after said publication he applied to several firms for credit and was refused; that some of said parties after reference to this book, refused credit to him.

This statement is sufficient for the purpose of an intelligent review of the matters complained of on this appeal. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff for $250, which was reduced by the court to $75, and judgment entered in favor of the plaintiff for $75. From this judgment defendant appeals, and complains:

[1] (1) That the court erred in its ruling on the admission of evidence, but as no exceptions were preserved to these rulings they will not be considered.

(2) That the court erred in overruling a motion made by the defendant at the conclusion of all the evidence for an instructed verdict. No exceptions were preserved to this, and it is not therefore considered.

[2] (3) The court erred in refusing to give certain instructions asked by the defendant. As to this we have to say that in so far as the instructions asked were pertinent to the issues tendered they were given substantially by the court in the instructions given to the jury, and therefore the refusal was without prejudice.

The other complaints are bottomed on the thought that the publication is not libelous per se, and that therefore...

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7 cases
  • Bertrand v. Rick Mullin & the Iowa Democratic Party, 12–0649.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • 16 May 2014
    ...721 N.W.2d 762, 770 (Iowa 2006). The tort recognizes “[i]t is the thought conveyed, not the words, that does the harm.” Turner v. Brien, 184 Iowa 320, 326, 167 N.W. 584, 586 (1918), overruled on other grounds by Ragland v. Household Fin. Corp., 254 Iowa 976, 981, 119 N.W.2d 788, 791 (1963).......
  • Rudawsky v. Nw. Jobers' Credit Bureau, 28317.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • 6 March 1931
    ...147 Minn. 203, 179 N. W. 1001; Dunnell, Minn. Dig. (2d Ed.) §§ 5501 and 5517 and cases cited; also see Turner v. Brien, 184 Iowa, 320, 167 N. W. 584, 3 A. L. R. 1585;Moore & Munger Co. v. Motor Trades Pub. Co., 170 App. Div. 779, 155 N. Y. S. 929;Hynds v. Fourteenth Street Store, 159 App. D......
  • Westropp v. E.W. Scripps Co., 30744.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Ohio
    • 6 August 1947
    ...are actionable per se, but indispensable if they are not. 33 American Jurisprudence 221, Section 242; [74 N.E.2d 351]Turner v. Brien, 184 Iowa 320, 167 N.W. 584, 3 A.L.R. 1585. In my view, for reasons hereinafter stated, the publication was not libelous per se. Therefore, the judgment in th......
  • Rudawsky v. Northwestern Jobbers' Credit Bureau, 28317.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • 6 March 1931
    ...147 Minn. 203, 179 N. W. 1001; Dunnell, Minn. Dig. (2d Ed.) §§ 5501 and 5517 and cases cited; also see Turner v. Brien, 184 Iowa, 320, 167 N. W. 584, 3 A. L. R. 1585; Moore & Munger Co. v. Motor Trades Pub. Co., 170 App. Div. 779, 155 N. Y. S. 929; Hynds v. Fourteenth Street Store, 159 App.......
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