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Gersten v. Newark Morning Ledger Co.

Decided: September 25, 1958.

EMANUEL GERSTEN AND LILLIAN GERSTEN, HIS WIFE, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NEWARK MORNING LEDGER CO., AND/OR S. I. NEWHOUSE, PUBLISHER, PHILIP HOCKSTEIN, EDITOR AND/OR "JOHN DOE," REPORTER, SAID NAME BEING FICTITIOUS AND UNKNOWN, DEFENDANTS



On plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

Fulop, J.c.c. (temporarily assigned).

Fulop

The plaintiffs move for a summary judgment as to liability alone in an action for libel.

The plaintiff husband is an attorney at law of this State and has held the position of township attorney of the Township of Hillside. He has been a candidate for elective office. The plaintiffs allege that they have been "happily married since July 9, 1933" and the plaintiff husband verifies this by affidavit. There is no contradictory verification.

On December 18, 1957, defendant corporation published in its newspaper the following article:

"WIFE TROUBLE HOLDS UP JOBS.

HILLSIDE -- A divorce suit upset the political applecart at last night's Township Committee meeting.

Three top appointments were shelved at least temporarily, because of Township Attorney Emanuel Gersten's pending divorce trial.

Before the session began, Gersten was slated to be named assistant attorney for 1958 with Magistrate Sidney Birnbaum taking the top attorney post. Former Mayor Henry Goldhor was to succeed Birnbaum as Magistrate.

On the positive side, Adolph A. Winston was announced as successor to Mayor V. William Di Buono, effective Jan. 1."

Plaintiffs allege and it is admitted that plaintiffs were not involved in a divorce trial or "wife trouble," and the fact is orally conceded that the plaintiff husband's name was erroneously given in place of that of another person who was involved in a divorce proceeding. Defendant alleges that it published a complete retraction and apology on the following day.

Both sides concede that the publication complained of did not result in the loss of the appointment referred to therein. Plaintiffs contend that the publication is libelous per se and injured their general reputation and injured the plaintiff husband in his professional reputation as a lawyer and public official.

Defendants in their answer admit the publication and allege lack of knowledge and deny most of the other allegations of the complaint. They also ...


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