Monday, November 11, 2013

Kennedy v. Cannon case brief

Kennedy v. Cannon case brief summary
182 A.2d 54 (Md. 1962)

Appellant wife sought to overturn the judgment of the Circuit Court for Dorchester County (Maryland), which directed a verdict in favor of appellee attorney and held that the attorney had an absolute privilege to make slanderous statements about the wife.


The attorney's client was accused by the wife of rape. The attorney was concerned that his client would be lynched, and after the attorney discovered that the prosecuting attorney had told a newspaper that the attorney's client was accused of rape, the attorney informed the newspaper that the wife consented to the sex. The wife filed an action against the attorney and claimed that the attorney had accused her of adultery and that, under Md. Ann. Code art. 88, § 1 (1957), his statement was slanderous per se. The trial court held that the attorney's statement was privileged.


  • The court reversed and held that in order for the statement of an attorney to be absolutely privileged, the statement had to be made in connection with a judicial proceeding. 
  • The court also ruled that the attorney did not have a qualified privilege to make the statement because the statement was not made to a party with a corresponding duty in the matter. 
  • Because the words spoken by the attorney were slanderous per se, the wife was not required to prove special damages. 
  • However, on retrial, the attorney was permitted to explain the circumstances in which the statement was made in order to mitigate his damages.


The court reversed the judgment of the trial court and held that the attorney had no privilege to make slanderous statements to a newspaper and that his statement that the wife consented to sex with his client was slanderous per se.

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