Kilian v. Doubleday & Co., Inc. case brief
Facts: At the American U a course in English was taught by Wolfe with students being disabled veterans of WWII. The course consisted of the writing by the students of essays or stories of their personal experiences in WWI and submitted to Wolfe who suggested corrections. Wolfe conceived idea of publishing these stories into a K with defendant for that purpose. Everyone entered a story and the binding said it was intimate and personal experiences with many copies sold. The story by O’Connell gave rise to the suit.
In his original draft he narrated incidents that occurred at Lichfield camp which were described by people who saw it. Wolfe said more details are probably needed and submitted it back to him so O’Connell wrote it in first person, purporting that the incidents occurred in his own experience which was wrong.
The story had gruesome injuries and commented on how people were being taken advantage of by the brass and specifically Kilian who was a colonel and the plaintiff. There was also a footnote in the book that said that Kilian was convicted of permitting cruel and unusual punishment of American soldiers and fined. The footnote was there to signify that the story is corroborated by his conviction while suggesting that he got off light.
During trial he admitted that his article was wholly false even though his defense is it is an accurate and true story of events by author. No soldiers were able to testify that the stories were true so no evidence of any wrongdoing at all.
Decision: Reverse and remand with a new trial because defendant won on trial and court thinks jury instructions were off
Reasoning: The statements made were all false and there was no evidence at all that it was true and that Kilian was such a bad guy. Specific charges cannot be justified just by showing plaintiff is a bad guy if the accusation is of one particular misconduct and no evidence about that misconduct exists.