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Clevenger v. Baker Voorhis & Co.
New York Court of Appeals
8 N.Y.2d 187, 168 N.E.2d 643, 203 N.Y.S.2d 812 (1960)
In 1922, Joseph R. Clevenger (plaintiff), a lawyer and legal author, wrote and published a legal-practice guide. In 1923, Clevenger sold the guide and related copyright to Baker Voorhis and Company (Baker) (defendant), and between 1923 and 1956, Clevenger edited annual editions of the guide and built a reputation as a reliable editor. In 1956, Clevenger ceased his editorship of the guide and withdrew his consent of the use of his name as the editor for future editions of the guide. However, the 1957 edition included Clevenger’s name as the editor, although Baker subsequently issued a correction to remove Clevenger’s name. In 1959, Baker published an edition of the guide that included only Clevenger’s name on the title page, even though Clevenger was not involved in the editing of that edition and never gave consent for his name to be used. Clevenger filed suit against Baker, claiming that Baker’s inclusion of only Clevenger’s name on the title page of the 1959 edition was likely to mislead readers into thinking that Clevenger had edited that edition. Clevenger further argued that, because the 1959 edition included numerous mistakes, Baker’s misleading use of Clevenger’s name was likely to cause irreparable harm to Clevenger’s reputation as a legal editor and that Baker’s actions therefore amounted to defamation. The lower court dismissed Clevenger’s complaint, holding that the complaint failed to state an actionable claim for defamation. Clevenger appealed to the New York Court of Appeals.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Froessel, J.)
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