This is an action for slander and libel in which plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages, a claim for special damages having been abandoned. The matter is before this court on a motion by the defendants to compel the plaintiff to produce the following records and documents:
1. All books and records indicating the amount of income earned by the plaintiff for the three-year period immediately preceding October 16, 1958.
2. Income tax records filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Bureau for the years 1955 and 1956 and 1957 and 1958.
3. All records and books indicating the amount of income earned by the plaintiff for the period of time following October 16, 1958 and up to and including the present.
The substance of the defamatory words are as follows:
"Craig Finnegan, township engineer, did not become a licensed engineer until April 24 of this year and had practised without a required license for 15 years.
On the basis of this charge, Mr. Finnegan should resign."
Plaintiff claims that the slanderous and libelous remarks have affected his general good reputation, his position as municipal engineer, as well as his general status as a professional engineer. He further claims that his continued practice as an engineer will be impaired.
Defendants claim that the records which are the subject of this motion are germane to the issues of plaintiff's reputation, the extent of compensatory and punitive damages and the defense of truth. The plaintiff on the other hand contends that the records are immaterial and irrelevant and
are privileged, and that the production of the same will reveal trade secrets.
The proper scope of discovery into the records, papers and books of the plaintiff is governed by R.R. 4:16-2. It provides, inter alia , that discovery may be had where the resultant matter will either be admissible as evidence at trial or will lead to discovery ...