Woolston v. Montana Free Press

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana
Citation2 P.2d 1020,90 Mont. 299
Docket Number6763.
Decision Date14 September 1931

Rehearing Denied Sept. 29, 1931.

Appeal from District Court, Silver Bow County; Frank L. Riley Judge.

Action by B. E. Woolston against the Montana Free Press and others. Judgment for plaintiff, motions for new trial by defendant named and another were overruled, and defendants appeal.

Reversed and remanded, with directions.

Sydney Sanner, of Los Angeles, Cal., Wm. I. Lippincott, of Butte and Fred J. Furman, of Los Angeles, Cal., for appellants.

John K Claxton, P. E. Geagan, and A. C. McDaniel, all of Butte, for respondent.

RODGERS District Judge (sitting in place of GALEN, J., disqualified).

This action is for libel. Defendants the Montant Free Press and W A. Clark, Jr., filed separate demurrers to the complaint upon the ground, among others, that the complaint does not state a cause of action. The demurrers were overruled, separate answers were filed, issues were joined, and a trial resulted in a verdict and judgment for plaintiff. Motion for new trial was denied, and defendants bring the cause here for review. The defendant Harry Gerard was not served and did not appear.

The article upon which this suit is based was published in the Montana Free Press on the front page, and reads as follows:

"Petty Move Against the Free Press. Anaconda Practice Shown in Activities Aimed at Business Operation of Independent Newspaper. The Anaconda Copper Mining Company's politics, business as well as political, embodies underground and picayune policies, and they remind one of E. Watters Neek, when a copper company newspaper employs a man in its business department whose sole duty apparently is to travel about Butte, Billings and Missoula and devote his time to attempts to injure The Montana Free Press. B. E. Woolston, a former executive of this paper, resigned when his demand for a higher salary was not met and was employed by the Butte Post.

The Post is owned and operated by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. The big boss of the company in Butte--or perhaps the brilliant idea emanated from some company politician or agent--ordered the employment of Woolston in the peculiar capacity he exercises. In the past record of the copper company some very small and contemptible deals may be found. But this is the petty limit, and serves to show how far the great organization will go to vent its ill will against an independent newspaper.

Woolston, it was said, was employed in the Post's business department. However, the day he went into the Post, four of the business employes there offered their resignations, according to credible report, and only reconsidered their action upon being assured that the new employe would have no connection with or authority over them. Then it was said that he was to have charge of foreign advertising.

He went to Billings, and there began attacks on The Free Press by urging its employes to quit and by threatening to destroy The Free Press business. Whether he was under direct orders from the Sixth Floor is unknown.

One singular episode concerned the mailing list of the Billings Free Press, an effort to secure which was made in an unethical and underhand manner, and the surrounding circumstances seemed to warrant the conclusion that the Post's foreign advertising man was behind the effort.

To an employe of The Free Press at Billings he said: 'You may tell Harry Gerard (Mr. W. A. Clark, Jr.'s representative) that after next week he will need only one advertising salesman at Billings, and that in 90 days he won't need any.' This vain threat was made in the presence of two other employes of the paper. Presumably Woolston's job was to wipe out The Billings Free Press in three months--a course, no doubt, that would have been highly satisfactory to the Sixth Floor.

The Billings Free Press has a competent solicitor. The new Butte Post plenipotentiary extraordinary sought him out, offered him a job on the Billings Gazette at $50 a week, $3 a day expenses and the use of a car if he would desert The Free Press. Asked by the solicitor what warranty he would have of a permanent position, Woolston offered to deposit the sum of $1,000 to indemnify him. Then he told the solicitor that The Free Press circulation manager at Butte intended to discharge him, anyway, and would have done so while Woolston was on The Free Press had he not prevented it. The man partly fell for Woolston's talk. However, when the Circulation manager learned of this peculiar episode in the acquirement of foreign advertisement by Woolston, he interviewed the solicitor and the latter remained in his employment with The Free Press.

The Butte Post and the Anaconda Copper Company managers and head men must have felt great gratification at these services of Woolston. But they are merely isolated instances in a general campaign waged...

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4 cases
  • Keller v. Safeway Stores, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • September 23, 1940
    ...portions of the conversation. Brown v. Independent Pub. Co., supra; Rowan v. Gazette Printing Co., 74 Mont. 326, 239 P. 1035; Woolston v. Montana Free Press, supra; Cooper Romney, 49 Mont. 119, 141 P. 289, Ann.Cas.1916A, 596; Shaffroth v. The Tribune, 61 Mont. 14, 201 P. 271. (5) If the lan......
  • Dillard v. Shattuck
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Mexico
    • May 12, 1932
    ...v. Harer, 73 Mont. 253, 235 P. 757; Burr v. Winnett Times Pub. Co., 80 Mont. 70, 258 P. 242; Woolston v. Montana Free Press (Mont.), 2 P.2d 1020; Ph nix Printing Co. v. Robertson, 80 Okl. 191, 195 P. 487; Ruble v. Kirkwood, 125 Or. 316, 266 P. 252. The language relied upon to constitute the......
  • Anderson v. City of Troy, 01-761.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • April 29, 2003
    ...258, 235 P. 757, 759; Brown v. Independent Pub. Co. (1914), 48 Mont. 374, 380, 138 P. 258, 260); Woolston v. Montana Free Press (1931), 90 Mont. 299, 301, 2 P.2d 1020, 1021. This Court further Words are defamatory per se which upon their face and without the aid of extrinsic proof are injur......
  • Campbell v. Post Pub. Co.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • March 25, 1933
    ...... knowledge possessed by the parties concerned.". Woolston v. Free Press, 90 Mont. 299, 2 P.2d 1020,. 1021. And "in order to render ......

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