In addition, this record is devoid of any evidence upon which to base a finding of actual malice. We recently defined actual malice as follows:. We believe actual malice is established when reporters and publishers depart from responsible standards of investigation and print articles on the basis of an admittedly unreliable source, without further verification, Stevens v.
Sun Publishing Co. Actual malice means that appellant acted "with ill-will towards the plaintiff, or that it acted recklessly or wantonly, meaning with conscious indifference toward plaintiff rights," and requires that "at the time of his act or omission to act the tort-feasor be conscious, or chargeable with consciousness of his wrongdoing. Florence Printing Co. Respondents contend that the report of the Summons, containing the designation of the cause of action as one for alienation of affection and criminal conversation, after the reporter had been cautioned not to do so was evidence of malice.
Senator Stevens testified that, before the first article, he advised appellant's reporter: "You don't print anything about alienation of affection and criminal conversation, because there is no allegation.
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This is merely a summons and there is no allegation charging anyone with that as yet, and you better wait until the complaint comes down. In Oliveros v. Henderson , S. I have found no authority which holds that if a person has a right to publish the proceedings of a court that an objection to such publication by someone interested will be sufficient to fix a charge of malicious libel on the publisher. Prima facie, such publication is not libelous, and there is no presumption of malice therefrom.
The position is also taken that the designation of the action in the Summons complaint not served as one for alienation of affection and criminal conversation was not a proper part of the Summons and that, upon some unexplained basis, the reporter should have known this and refrained from its publication. The burden apparently sought to be placed upon the publisher is one of determining not only the accuracy but the relevancy of the allegations contained in the public record before publication, legal authority for which is not cited by either respondent.
In fact, our decision in Lybrand v. This record conclusively shows that the articles in question were accurate reports of the documents as they were filed in the litigation against respondents, and that they were published without malice. Any other result would make it impossible for a publisher to accurately report a public record without assuming liability for the truth of the allegations contained in such record. We do not consider that such result has a factual or legal basis in this record. To uphold the verdict would amount to imposition of liability without fault contrary to the rule in Gertz v.
Welch , U. A directed verdict should have been granted.
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The case is remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the appellants. Reversed and remanded. The respondents in this defamation action were each awarded actual and punitive damages. The appellants allege that the denial of their motions for directed verdicts at the conclusion of evidence was error. I disagree and would affirm the judgment for the respondents. The appellants published three separate articles concerning litigation involving the respondents and one John Reaves.
In , respondents and Mr. Reaves were all practicing attorneys in Loris, South Carolina.
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Respondent Padgett was formerly associated with Mr. Reaves but is now an assistant solicitor for Horry County. Respondent Stevens is a partner with his father, James P. Respondent Stevens represented the wife of Mr. Reaves in domestic litigation against him. Reaves opposed Mr. On December 6, , Mr. Reaves, representing himself, filed a Summons Complaint Not Served naming respondents as defendants.
Although no complaint was attached, Mr. Reaves stated that the cause of action was alienation of affection and criminal conversation. Another Summons Complaint Not Served was filed the same day against respondent Stevens stating abuse of process as the cause of action. None of the summonses contained formal allegations or ultimate facts.
Respondent Stevens' father warned a reporter of the appellants not to print anything until the complaint was served because a summons alone does not contain allegations.
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Thereafter, the appellants published an article which reported that Reaves had named respondents as defendants in an action alleging alienation of affection and criminal conversation. The subsequently served complaints did not name either of the respondents in the criminal conversation action. On January 6, , after the complaints were served, the appellants published a second article which stated in part that the respondents were "cited" for alienation of affection.
Therefore, respondent Stevens questioned the reporter who wrote the articles as to why the appellant had refused to print a retraction concerning the criminal conversation suit. The appellants' reporter simply shrugged in response. A third article appeared in the appellants' publication on March 29, , concerning a Summons and Complaint which Reaves had filed alleging the respondents had committed barratry and champerty.
The appellants' reporter was given a copy of the complaint by Reaves himself the night of March 28, , in the Loris Centinel office. Before giving the copy to appellants' reporter, Mr. Reaves inquired whether the reporter would be interested in a story. The following morning, an article concerning the barratry and champerty suits appeared in appellants' publication.
None of the three suits initiated by Mr.
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Reaves were ever litigated. Respondents filed the present action upon the grounds that the three articles were libelous and had caused them injury. The United States Supreme Court has held that the Fourteenth Amendment permits the States to provide appropriate standards of liability for a publisher of defamatory falsehoods which injure private individuals, so long as damages are not allowed without a showing of fault.
Gertz v. Firestone , U. We have held that publications based on public documents are privileged if the report is fair and impartial and not based upon malice. However, the privilege is lost if the published report is not accurate, fair, and impartial. Oliveros v. State Co. As noted in Oliveros, supra at p. No one has a right to take advantage of the privilege allowed to make comments injurious to the reputation or business of another.
In Lybrand an alleged defamatory publication was made based upon the filing of a summons and complaint. A demurrer to the defamation action was affirmed on appeal because there were no allegations that the publication was not a fair and true report of the pleadings. In contrast, respondents have alleged that the appellants' reports were not fair and impartial and have proved this to the satisfaction of the jury. South Carolina Code Pleading recognizes only four formal pleadings — the complaint, answer, the reply and the demurrer.
The summons is purely a jurisdictional tool, designed to contain neither facts nor allegations, but simply to afford notice. Williams v. Carpenter , S. Jolley v. Jolly , S. Wilder , et al.
Carpenter , supra. The summonses filed by Reaves in the abuse of process and criminal conversation actions went beyond the notice function and stated causes of action totally unsupported by the underlying facts. Although the appellants were warned not to publish an article based on the summonses, they published one in which they incorrectly stated respondents had been named as defendants in a criminal conversation suit. Consequently, the article lost the qualified privilege because it was not fair and impartial. Even though an article contains defamatory falsehoods, Gertz v.
Welch , supra, required a showing of fault before actual damages are imposed upon the publisher. I believe ample evidence existed from which the jury could have determined appellants' fault in failing to investigate properly before publishing. Horry County is home to two other cities, four towns, and numerous unincorporated communities.
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