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Truth (N.Z.) Ltd. v. Avery

[1959] NZLR 284

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Truth (N.Z.) Ltd. v. Avery

New Zealand Court of Appeal

[1959] NZLR 284

Facts

An article appeared in the New Zealand Truth (publisher) (defendant) that was critical of an employee of the Wellington Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals (plaintiff). The article accused the employee of cruelty when the employee shot a dog that was annoying two goats. The article specifically alleged the employee shot the dog in the stomach from 300 yards and left the dog to suffer for 15 minutes while he drove to another location where he was able to kill the dog after firing several more shots. The article described the hillside where the dog died as looking like a slaughter yard covered in blood. The employee sued for libel. The publisher asserted the whole of the words published were true and, in the alternative, the words were covered by the fair-comment defense. The trial judge instructed the jury to decide whether the statements of fact had been justified and whether the comments had also been justified and to have regard for the evidence relied on to support the truth of the comments. The trial judge also left the question whether the hillside words were statements of fact or comment but told the jury that the judge would not regard them as comment. The jury returned a verdict for the employee, and the publisher appealed after the trial judge denied the publisher’s motion for a new trial.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (North, J.)

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