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Garrison v. Sun Printing & Pub. Ass'n - 207 N.Y. 1, 100 N.E. 430 (1912)

Rule:

The rule must be regarded as well recognized in New York that in an action brought for the redress of a wrong intentionally, willfully and maliciously committed, the wrongdoer will be held responsible for the injuries which he has directly caused even though they lie beyond the limit of natural and apprehended results as established in cases where the injury was unintentional. 

Facts:

It was alleged that defendant-appellant newspaper willfully and maliciously published defamatory words, actionable per se, concerning a woman. The woman became ill due to her mental suffering caused by the publication. Plaintiff-respondent husband filed suit against appellant newspaper for loss of his wife's services. The newspaper filed a demurrer, which was overruled by the trial court. The appellate division affirmed. The newspaper appealed, contending that physical sufferings resulting from mental distress were too remote and unusual to become a subject for compensation. The following question was certified for further review: Does the second cause of action alleged in the second amended complaint herein state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action? 

 

Issue:

May plaintiff husband recover for loss of services of his wife, where her sickness resulted from mental distress, which was caused by defendant newspaper's willful and malicious publication of defamatory words actionable per se?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court of Appeals found that the published words were libelous pe se. The Court cited the well recognized rule that in an action brought for the redress of a wrong intentionally, willfully and maliciously committed, the wrongdoer will be held responsible for the injuries which he has directly caused even though they lie beyond the limit of natural and apprehended results as established in cases where the injury was unintentional. The Court concluded that because the wife might have recovered damages for the mental distress and physical sufferings caused by the publication of defendant newspaper's libel, it followed that plaintiff husband may maintain this action for loss of society and services. The wife's services were presumably of pecuniary value to the husband, and any wrong by which he was deprived thereof was a wrong done to his rights and interests for which he may recover damages. The Court affirmed.

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