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Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Lesesne

198 F.2d 154 (1952)

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Western Union Telegraph Co. v. Lesesne

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

198 F.2d 154 (1952)

Facts

A woman was killed in the street by a car driven by Thomas B. Lesesne, Jr. (plaintiff). The next morning, H. G. Willingham dispatched a telegram to Lesesne, threatening to expose the killing. The telegram, which was delivered by Western Union Telegraph Company (Western Union) (defendant), was opened and read by Lesesne’s wife before Lesesne saw it. The contents of the message were also seen by the Western Union employees who handled its transmission. Lesesne brought a libel action against Western Union on the grounds that legal publication of the telegram occurred when the letter was read by parties other than Lesesne. The jury question concerning publication to the Western Union employees turned on whether those employees were privileged to see a private communication between two parties. The jury delivered a verdict for Lesesne. Western Union appealed. The United States Court of Appeals granted certiorari.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Soper, J.)

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