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Meints v. Huntington - 276 F. 245 (8th Cir. 1921)

Rule:

As to each participant in a conspiracy the law is unconcerned with the extent or degree of his activity when it comes to consider the question of liability, and places all on the same footing, each equally liable jointly and severally, regardless of whether a conspiracy theretofore had been entered into.

Facts:

John Meints, a resident and citizen of South Dakota, brought an action against Huntington and other residents and citizens of Rock County, Minnesota, to recover damages, on the charge that they deported him from Minnesota to South Dakota on the night of August 19, 1918, and maltreated him on the way. He was suspected of being interested in or of having contributed to the support of a Non-Partisan League newspaper printed and published in that town and so one night, a group of people took him across the State line into Iowa, a distance of about 15 miles from his home and told him not to return and left him there. He came back, but to his sons' house. Defendants forced their way into that house and coerced plaintiff into coming with them. Defendants whipped and tarred-and-feathered plaintiff, told him to cross the state line, and said that if he came back he would be hanged. Thus, Meints brought an action against the men for conspiracy to falsely imprison and maltreat him. The district court instructed the jury that plaintiff could not recover for anything done before he was assaulted because he had consented. The district court also allowed evidence of plaintiff's allegedly unpatriotic activities, such as not contributing to the war effort or not giving as much as he could have. The district court entered judgment for defendants. The case was appealed.

Issue:

Was the jury instructed properly?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court reversed the district court's judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. The court held that it was prejudicial error to instruct the jury that plaintiff consented to being taken. There was no consent to false imprisonment. It was also prejudicial error to admit the evidence of plaintiff's allegedly unpatriotic activities.

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