Denny v. Mertz
Wisconsin Supreme Court
84 Wis. 2d 654, 267 N.W.2d 304 (1978)
William Denny (plaintiff) worked for Koehring Company for about 15 years as an attorney, after which he resigned to go into private practice. He was also a major shareholder of Koehring. Orville Mertz (defendant) was an executive for Koehring for many years, and he eventually became CEO. Denny and other shareholders spoke critically to Koehring’s board of directors about Mertz’s performance as CEO. Mertz was eventually terminated. Business Week published an article about the change in management after Mertz’s termination. The article stated that Mertz claimed he had been harassed by Denny after Mertz fired Denny. Denny sued Mertz and McGraw-Hill, Inc. (defendant), the publisher of Business Week, for libel for publishing the statement that Mertz had fired Denny. Mertz and McGraw-Hill, Inc. filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. They argued that “fired” was a neutral term that carried no negative connotations and did not imply that the firing was for incompetence or any particular reason. They also argued that the article in general painted Mertz, not Denny, in a negative light. The trial court denied the motion, and Mertz and McGraw-Hill appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Day, J.)
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