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Law School Case Brief

Hinsdale v. Orange Cnty. Publ'ns, Inc. - 17 N.Y.2d 284, 270 N.Y.S.2d 592, 217 N.E.2d 650 (1966)

Rule:

A fact not expressed in a newspaper article but presumably known to its readers is admissible to show that the article was libelous per se. 

Facts:

Plaintiff story subjects instituted libel actions against defendant newspaper as a result of a newspaper story about the imminent marriage of two already married persons. Plaintiffs contended that the article published by defendant was libelous per se because at the time of the publication defendant knew or by reasonable diligence could have learned that the subjects of the newspaper article were already married. The trial court dismissed the complaints, which the appellant court affirmed on the ground that the newspaper story was not libelous per se.

Issue:

Can the news article be considered as libelous per se?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court found that the extrinsic fact of plaintiffs' marriages could be used to make out a case of libel per se. The Court concluded that plaintiffs' complaints sufficiently alleged a publication that was libelous per se because it could be libelous per se to say things about a married person that would be innocuous as to one not married.

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