Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Coles v. Harsch case brief

Coles v. Harsch case brief summary
276 P. 248 (Or. 1929)

Appellant, a new husband, challenged the judgment of the Circuit Court, Multnomah County (Oregon), which was entered in favor of appellee, an ex-husband, in the amount of $ 17,500 in an action for malicious alienation of the ex-wife's affections by showing "improper attention" to her from 1923 through 1925 after the ex-wife divorced him, and then married the new husband.

A judgment was entered for the ex-husband in the amount of $ 17,550, and an appeal was taken.


  • The court held that there was an insufficient foundation before attempting to impeach the principal witness as to an incident at Pudding River. 
  • However, the court stated that before one could find that a witness was untruthful, the attorney cross-examining the witness should have confronted the witness with the alleged statement accompanied by the identifying circumstances. 
  • The court further held that the trial court erred in permitting the ex-husband, over objection, to ask what the former wife had told him about her intention to return to Oregon. 
  • The ex-husband sought this information to catch the new husband in an untruth to a collateral matter. 
  • The trial court also erred in overruling the new husband's objection to allowing the ex-husband to read in evidence an affidavit signed by the new husband which averred the nonpresence in Oregon of his wife. 
  • Inquiries into the intricacies of the new husband's divorce action, after the agreement as to the new husband's matrimonial status, would import an unnecessary collateral issue.

The court reversed the trial court's judgment entered in favor of ex-husband.

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