Appellants, newspaper publishers, unions, union officers, and labor council, sought to overturn the judgment of the Superior Court of San Joaquin County (California), which awarded damages to appellee dairy owners for defamation.
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The dairy owners agreed with a union that no employee was permitted to make any contract which would have violated the dairy owners union agreement. The dairy owners then employed a former worker as an independent contractor to deliver milk to the dairy’s customers. The union and its allies responded by publishing a newspaper article which stated that the dairy was on the union’s don’t patronize list and accusing the dairy owners of breaking the agreement, engaging in a destructive policy, and hiring non-union drivers. The lower court awarded compensatory and punitive damages to the dairy owners, and the court reversed. The court held that nothing in the newspaper article was clearly false and that the union had the right to boycott an employer who was a party to a labor controversy. Further, the court held that the newspaper article, being connected with union affairs, was conditionally privileged and that there was no evidence that any of the statements uttered were maliciously made.
The court reversed the judgment of the lower court, which had awarded damages for defamation to the dairy owners.