Februa.J:'y 6, 1893.)
(Circuit Oourt, S.
ri.· New York.
.·.4 c1rculil.r letter of and concerning an· agent and broker for government sUPPlY· contractors, pUblished,and sent by the secretary of the Interior to Intending biddErrs for'such supplY contracts, and stating that "any Interference on the part of W. R. L., [plaintiff,] a former chief of the ":tlI.t1onery and printlngdiVislon, with the buslness In any way, will to. the Interest of any person or firm represented," is capable of II. U1:ielous Interpretation, and a complaint· wbich properly pleads the same is good as against a demurrer.
TENDING TO INJURE BUSINESS.
. .A.tLaiv. Action by W. R. Lapham against John W.Noble for demv.rs to the complaint. OveITU1ed. Edward M. Groat, for. plai,nti1f. Myers & Anable, for defendant;.
r, ' ' . . .". ·
" . "Department of the Interior, Washington, March 28, 1892. "Sir: In that the.re may be no mi!)llpprehension on the part of persons intending to submit bids for furnishing envelopes and stationery for the use of tb1s department durmg the ensuing year, you are informed that any Inter:ference Wiltbe.:,part of Mr. W'. It,Lapham, a former chief of the stationery and with the business in any way, will not be to the interest ot any person· ot 'firm represented. "Re8l>eet:tul1y, . , . John W. Noble, Secretary."
The defendant's demurrer raises the states facts sufficient to constitute action. T1l.e, action IS to recover damages for the publicati9D.· of .a circular letter the plaintiff, upon the theory itwllS a libel. 'l]le .complaint alleges that at the time of publi.ca,1j,Qh.i$e·,defenda,nt was, and for some time prior thereto had been, of the dePartment of the interior of the United States; that for )nany years 'prior to December 15, 1891, the plaintiff had been anetrlploye in the stationery and printing division of said depSrtwent, and for sometime had been chief of such division; that on December 15, 1891, ,the plaintiff .resigned his position, and entered UJ)on, and haasince continued, in, the business of a government contractor for s1,1pplying the various departments of the government at Washington with stationery and office supplies, and also in that of an or broker for others in that business, employed by them. to arrange their bids, and negotiate and procure the acceptance of .th.e same. The Complaint further alleges that on March 28, 1892, while the plaintiff was still prosecuting his said business, the defendant of and concerning the plaintiff and his .a circular, and, with the intent of injuring the plaintiff in his busineEls, caused it. to ,be sent to all persons who were, or. had been, or were ,likely to be, bidders for government contracts for supplies for the use of the lileveral departmentj;!. The circular is as follows:
WALLACE, Circuit Judge.
The complafnt that. the defendant, meant by the word "interference" in the circular to say falsely that the plaintiff, by the prosecution. of his business, waa meddling with, .matters which
!, ,'" ("
·LAPHAM II. NOBLE.
were not of his concern; and by the words, "any interference * * * will not be to the interest of any person or firm represented," the defendant meant to say falsely that the plaintiff was incompetent in his business, and his services to intending bidders would be and were of no value; and that by said circular the defendant falsely gave those to whom it was sent to understand that the plaintiff had been an incompetent and untrustworthy government official. and that the defendant had reason to distrust him. The complaint also alleges that special damage was sustained by the plaintiff by reason of the publication of the circular, and sufficiently. sets forth the facts cOillstituting the special daniage. There is no statutory law and no principle of the common law which prohibits the plaintiff from pursuing the business in which he was engaged. The fact that he had shortly. before been an employe of the government, and in that position had acquired peculiar in· formation of the wants of the departments, their modes of conduct· ing business, and of the most advantageous way of preparing bids and presenting proposals for furnishing supplies, did not militate against his right to act as an agent or broker for others in their dealings with the department. There was no impropriety in his doing so,provided he did not assume to enjoy some illegitimate advantages by reason of his former· position. There is no merit in the point that the ulaintiff's businesIJ was not. a. lawful one, and that be therefore cannot maintain an acti<m for defamation in respect to it. Any publication concerning an indivi!lual which tends to prejudice him in his employment is a libel. The circular is capable of a meaning which brings it within this definition. As the complaint alleges, it may be read as intending to state that the plaintiff's services would be of no value to persons proposing to employ him. It is capable of a much more vicious meaning. In the light of the .circumstances under which it was sent, it may be read not only as an imputation of the plaintiff's incompetency as a broker, but also as an intimation that his employment would be regarded by the department of the interior as an intermeddling and an officious interference therewith. One meaning of "interference" is "inter· meddling." The circular implies quite definitely that persons having business to do with the department will consult their interests by not employing the plaintiff. When words spoken or published are ambiguous in their import, may permit in their application more than one interpretation, and in some sense may be defam:ttory, the question whether they are such is for the jury. Lewis v. Chapman, 16 N. Y. 369; Sander· son v. Caldwell. 45 N. Y. 398 ; Woodruff v. Bradstreet Co., 116 N. Y. 217, 22 N. E. Rep. 354; Williams v. Smith, 22 Q. B. Div. 184The demurrer is overruled, with costs.
'IrUJBPHY v. UNITED STATJIl8.
f , ' : - ': :
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':INo., 11,486. ,,'
'1.'hesuspenslon by thecommnndant of'a government navy yard, upon charges preferred"ot a:toreman maSon appointed by h1nl, and receiVing a , per diem COJDp,eDSJl,ti()n; is equivll1ent. so, tar as the rlght of compensation is concerned, to a The tact that a bOtL'rd,ot investIgation is subSequently appointed by the secretary ot. the navY to inquire' roto the cha.rgesaga1nst the foreman, whlchboardrecommends his d1stnlssal, is not arecognitlon of his status as a government empl()ye, and the fact that he was not formally dismissed ill iJDmaterlaL ' Such foreman oonnotrecover t.rom the United States his expenses In travellngfrom Wa.shli:lgton to MareIsIand navy yard; Cal., to be present at the investigation,' when It appears. that his presence in Washington was tor the Ptlrpose ot a reinstatement, and that the board was appointed on his
rt Y AiIDS..:...StrsPBNBION.....COMPBNSATION.
SUB-QLAJIlB, FOB., T:u.A.VJl:loING EXP"8BB;,
, At Law. Action by Charles Murphy against the United States to to be due him as foreman mason a.t the Mare Islandriavy'yard. Heard on demurrer to the petition. Demurrer sustained. ' , H. B. M,.:Miller, forrpJA-fntiff, ' ' ChadesA. Q-arter, U. S. Atty., and Charles A. Shurtleff, Assr.., U. S. Atty. ' GILBER,T, ' Circuit" Judge. The plaintiff filed his petition ,under the act of congress approved March 3, "An act for the bringing Qt ,suits against the goverilment of the United States." r petition lWntains two caUS Sof action. The 1irst is, in suhs't;ance., thatOJ;l July 23, 1885, the pll\'intifT was, by the commaJ,lt:lant: of theU,¢,ted States navy yard, at Mare island, Cal., appointed foreman mason, of said navy yard, "at the underatood and agreed compensation of, six dollaI1Jper day;" that he forthwith upon the of his duties as such foreman, and continued to perform the same until ,September 29, 1885, , when he was suspenQe4 by the, commandant, by reason of certain "charges w:Wch had been preferred against him; that on November 30th following, a board of investigation met at Mare island under the direQtion of the secretary of the navy" '!X> investigate charges,and on JanuQ.ry 7, 1886, the board to the secretary, recwmmendingthe plaintiff/a disDliflsal; ,that the plaintiff was never discharged, and thap. the procee4ings " the board, for reasons alleged in the petition, were illegal, and of no effect; that ever since the 23d day of July, 1885, plaintiff has been, and now is, the regularly and duly appointed foreman mason at said navy yard; that there is due the plaintiff his compensation as such foreman from the date of his suspension to the commencement of this action. in the sum of $10,430.