On appeal from the Mercer Circuit Court.
For the appellant, Charles R. Hardin and George Gildea.
For the respondent, Frank I. Casey.
The opinion of the court was delivered by
PARKER, J. This is a libel suit, based on several successive editorials in the defendant's newspaper, claimed by plaintiff to be libelous per se. The complaint was in five counts, each count reciting a separate editorial. At the trial only compensatory damages were claimed. On the third and fifth counts the jury found "no cause of action." On the first, there was an award of $2,000 damages; on the second, $8,000; and on the fourth $5,000. There was a rule to show cause for a new trial, the reasons stated being (Nos. 1 to 5) that the verdicts were excessive; and (6) allegedly improper remarks of plaintiff's counsel in addressing the jury. There was a reservation of exceptions for the purpose of appeal. Judge Oliphant, who tried the case, decided that the verdicts on the several counts were excessive, and awarded a new trial on damages only. (Supreme Court rule 132.) On that second trial the amounts found by the jury were $1,000, $1,500 and $1,500 on the first, second and fourth counts, respectively; and judgment was entered accordingly. Hence the present appeal.
Fourteen grounds of appeal were filed. The case is submitted without oral argument. The first four grounds and the sixth are expressly abandoned. Others are not argued. The point particularly stressed is that the plaintiff, having presented no evidence to show any special damage, was not entitled to more than nominal damages; and the court was asked, and refused, so to charge.
We take up the grounds of appeal that are argued in numerical order.
The fifth ground is that the court refused to charge the following request: "No evidence of damage having been offered by the plaintiff in this case, you must assess only nominal damages on each of the three counts in the plaintiff's complaint." The court properly refused so to charge.
In Reilly v. Curtiss, 83 N.J.L. 77, the Supreme Court held, citing 25 Cyc. 531 (now 37 C.J. 91), that "when words spoken are actionable per se, plaintiff is not required to introduce evidence of actual damage to entitle him to substantial damages, since in the absence of any evidence of damage the law presumes the damage."
We do not understand that there is any difference in this respect between an action of slander and an action of libel. See Odgers on Libel and Slander *293.
In 17 R.C.L. (at p. 430), it is stated that "General damages in actions for libel and slander have been defined as those which the law presumes must naturally, proximately, and necessarily result from the publication in question. They are such damages as are recoverable without proof of special damage. The following elements may be taken into consideration in assessing such damages; injury to feelings, mental suffering, injury to character and reputation, and similar injuries, incapable of definite money valuation." We think it is elementary law that in actions ...