Monday, November 11, 2013

Ellsworth v. Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, Inc. case brief

Ellsworth v. Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, Inc. case brief summary
280 N.W. 879 (N.D. 1938)

Defendant publisher appealed a judgment of the District Court of Stutsman County (North Dakota), which overruled its demurrer to the complaint filed by plaintiff attorney in his action to recover damages for a defamatory publication.


The attorney alleged in his complaint that the publication of his name with its attached marking in the publisher's law directory was untrue and published with a libelous purpose. The attorney alleged that the publication injured him in his practice, character, reputation, and business, exposing him to contempt, ridicule, and obloquy.


  • On appeal, the publisher argued that the attorney failed to plead special damages, failed to set out the names of clients he lost because of the publication, and failed to specify particularly the origin, character, and amount of the business the attorney had been deprived of because of the publication. 
  • The court held that the amended complaint alleged that the attorney's business was due in part to referrals through a widely spread foreign territory. 
  • The attorney alleged that the publication in which the defamatory matter was published was circulated generally throughout that territory and among those who made referrals. 
  • The court ruled that the attorney's allegation as to special damages was sufficient.

The court affirmed the judgment in favor of the attorney.

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