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DUCHESS CHENILLES INC. et at. v. MASTERS.
33754.
Action for damages; from Whitfield Superior Court-- Judge Paschall. June 29, 1951.
SUTTON, C. J.
1. "Where counsel shall acknowledge service upon a bill of exceptions, such acknowledgment shall be held to be a complete waiver of all defects in the service which the counsel signing it is legally competent to waive, whether such signing shall be done before or after the signing of the writ of error, unless counsel in the entry of acknowledgment shall distinctly and specifically state that it is not to be construed as waiving some particular defect then pointed out by him." Code, 6-912. The second sentence of the acknowledgment of service in this case did not restrict or limit the general acknowledgment of service contained in the other part of the acknowledgment. The motion of the defendant in error to dismiss the writ of error is denied.
2. Count one of the petition set out a cause of action for false imprisonment, and the court did not err in overruling the general demurrer to this count.
2. (a) Nor did the alleged payment of money by the plaintiff to the defendants, demanded of him for his release from illegal imprisonment, amount to an accord and satisfaction or bar him from maintaining an action for false imprisonment or for slander, for the reasons set out in divisions 2(a) and 5 of the opinion.
3. The trial judge did not err in overruling the special demurrers to counts one and two of the petition, for the reasons set out in divisions 3 and 6 of the opinion.
4. Words imputing to a plaintiff the crime of larceny are slanderous per se, and where the language used is actionable per se, malice is implied unless the utterance is privileged, in which case the plaintiff must establish malice. In the present case, it cannot be said as a matter of law that the alleged statement by the defendants, that the plaintiff had stolen goods of the defendant corporation worth $1000 or more, was made only to proper persons on a proper occasion and was properly limited in its scope so as to be a privileged communication, where it appears from the allegations of the petition that the alleged charge was made not only in the presence of certain police officers but also in the presence of three neighbors of the plaintiff, only one of whom was alleged to be an employee of the defendant; consequently, the trial judge did not err in overruling the general demurrers to count two of the petition.
5. Both counts of the petition set out a cause of action, and the trial judge did not err in overruling the general and special demurrers thereto.
E. L. Masters sued Duchess Chenilles Inc. and A. H. Nicholas in the Superior Court of Whitfield County seeking in count one to recover damages for false imprisonment and in count two to recover damages for slander. Count one of the petition alleged in substance that for eight months prior to the occurrence complained of the plaintiff and his brother had been removing waste and refuse from the plant of the corporate defendant; that they had been requested to do so by the forelady of the corporation whose name was not known to the plaintiff and by Silvey Ownby, a foreman of the corporate defendant, and by J. L. Green, an employee, and by the janitor, whose name was unknown to the plaintiff; that these parties were charged with the duty of disposing of the trash and refuse at said plant and that they were acting within the scope of their authority in directing, requesting and permitting the plaintiff and his brother to remove the trash and refuse from the plant; that on the day in question, the individual defendant, A. H. Nicholas, who was the general manager in over-all charge of the plant and also a principal stockholder of the corporation, informed certain named policemen of the City of Dalton that the petitioner and his brother were stealing goods from the plant and requested these officers to visit the plant on this particular morning to apprehend the plaintiff and his brother in the alleged theft; that the officers came to the plant while the plaintiff and his brother were removing the trash and refuse and arrested them; and that the defendant Nicholas came to the plant during the time of the arrest and charged that the plaintiff and his brother had stolen goods worth $1000 or more from the plant and that he wanted them to pay for the goods rather than have him press charges against them; that the plaintiff and his brother protested their innocence and in order to secure their release from custody, the plaintiff's brother left and returned to the police station, where they were holding the plaintiff under arrest, with $100, which was delivered to the defendants under an agreement between the plaintiff and his brother and the defendant Nicholas, and the plaintiff and his brother were then released by the officers; that neither the plaintiff nor his brother owed either defendant anything and that the money was extorted from them by the false charges made by the defendant Nicholas, and by their unlawful arrest and imprisonment; that the arrest was made without a warrant and the plaintiff and his brother were not conducted immediately before a committing magistrate as required by law; that the plaintiff was restrained and deprived of his liberty in violation of law and was humiliated and endured great pain, suffering and embarrassment as the result of said imprisonment; that his damages were aggravated by the false charges made against him by the defendant Nicholas in behalf of himself and in behalf of and by the authority of the corporate defendant; and that the plaintiff also sustained the loss of $50, this being one half the amount paid to the defendants, as he had reimbursed his brother for this amount of the loss sustained.
The defendants filed general and special demurrers to the petition, which they renewed after the petition was amended. On July 29, 1951, the trial judge entered an order overruling the general and special demurrers to the amended petition. The attorneys for the defendants prepared a bill of exceptions assigning error on the judgment of the court overruling the demurrers. On July 10, 1951, this bill of exceptions was presented to the attorney for the plaintiff, who executed thereon the following acknowledgment of service: "Due and legal service of the above and foregoing bill of exceptions is hereby acknowledged and all other and further notice is hereby waived. The undersigned hereby approves the foregoing bill of exceptions as correct and complete and waives the privilege and opportunity to be heard on any question with respect thereto. This 10th day of July, 1951." The bill of exceptions was certified by the trial judge on July 11, 1951.
Before the call of the case for argument in this court, the defendant in error moved to dismiss the writ of error on the ground that it did not appear from any entry on the bill of exceptions, or from evidence attached thereto, that the defendant in error or his attorney had been served with a copy of the bill of exceptions within 10 days after the same was signed and certified by the trial judge and that the Court of Appeals was without jurisdiction to consider the assignments of error made in the bill of exceptions. A copy of the motion to dismiss was duly served upon opposing counsel.
1. The motion of the defendant in error to dismiss the writ of error is denied. "The law relative to notice to the opposing party or counsel before certification of a bill of exceptions, or a waiver of such notice, or approval of the averments of fact in a bill of exceptions, did not alter or change the requirements under existing law relative to service, waiver of service, or acknowledgment of service of a bill of exceptions." Godwin v. Atlantic Steel Co., 82 Ga. App. 391 (61 S. E. 2d, 155). The first portion of the acknowledgment of service in this case was sufficient under existing law to show service of the bill of exceptions in the case. "Where counsel shall acknowledge service upon a bill of exceptions, such acknowledgment shall be held to be a complete waiver of all defects in the service which the counsel signing it is legally competent to waive, whether such signing shall be done before or after the signing of the writ of error, unless counsel in the entry of acknowledgment shall distinctly and specifically state that it is not to be construed as waiving some particular defect then pointed out by him." Code, 6-912. The second sentence of the acknowledgment of service in this case did not restrict or limit the general acknowledgment of service contained in the other part of the acknowledgment. It enlarged the general acknowledgment of service by approving the recital of the bill of exceptions and by waiving being present when the same was presented to the judge for certification. As stated by this court in the case of Cagle v. Savage, 80 Ga. App. 241, 243 (55 S. E. 2d, 769), "If counsel for the defendant in error had only intended to acknowledge service of the notice of intention to present the bill of exceptions they could have done so plainly and without ambiguity." There is nothing in the entry in the present case to indicate that the acknowledgment of service is not to be taken as a waiver of all defects in its service and the motion of the defendant in error to dismiss the writ of error is without merit.
It is plainly alleged that the plaintiff had not committed any crime in the presence of the officers. There is nothing in the petition to show any justification for the arrest and detention of the plaintiff without a warrant for his arrest and imprisonment.
"Whoever arrests or imprisons a person without a warrant is guilty of a tort, unless he can justify under some of the exceptions in which arrest and imprisonment without a warrant are permitted by law; and the burden of proving the existence of the facts raising the exception is upon the person making the arrest or inflicting the imprisonment." Piedmont Hotel Co. v. Henderson, 9 Ga. App. 672 (72 S. E. 51). To arrest one illegally and detain him for any length of time is a criminal offense. It is likewise a tort for which an action for damages will lie. If the imprisonment or detention is the act of several persons, they may be sued jointly or severally. Holliday v. Coleman, 12 Ga. App. 779 (78 S. E. 482); Code, 105-903. "False imprisonment consists in the unlawful detention of the person of another, for any length of time, whereby he is deprived of his personal liberty." Code, 105-901. Under the allegations of count one, a cause of action for false imprisonment was alleged, and the trial judge did not err in overruling the general demurrer to this count of the petition. See Central of Georgia Ry. Co. v. Dabney, 44 Ga. App. 143 (160 S. E. 818); Conoly v. Imperial Tobacco Co., 63 Ga. App. 880 (12 S. E. 2d, 398), and citations.
The case cited and relied upon by the plaintiff in error, Hammond v. D. C. Black Inc., 53 Ga. App. 609 (186 S. E. 775), is distinguishable on its facts from the present case. In that case the officers acted on their own judgment and initiative in making the arrest and detaining the plaintiff. In the present case, the officers were told that the plaintiff had been stealing goods of the corporate defendant and were summoned to "apprehend petitioner and his said brother in such alleged theft," and after the arrest had been made, the plaintiff was deprived of his liberty until he paid the defendants the sum of money required, whereupon the defendants accepted the money and the plaintiff was set at liberty.
2. (a) We do not think the fact that the plaintiff paid the defendants the money demanded of him for his release from an illegal imprisonment amounted to an accord and satisfaction or barred his right to maintain an action for false imprisonment. As to whether or not the defendants held the plaintiff for an unreasonable time without carrying him before a committing magistrate, or whether his conduct waived such action, under the allegations of the petition, these are matters for the jury, In this connection, however, see Piedmont Hotel Co. v. Henderson, supra, at page 682.
3. The plaintiff alleged that certain employees of the defendant corporation "were charged with the duty of disposing of the trash and refuse of said corporation at its said plant and were acting within the scope of their authority in directing, requesting and permitting the removal of said trash and refuse from said plant by petitioner and his said brother." The defendants demurred specially to these allegations, "because it is not alleged in said paragraph nor elsewhere in the petition who conferred said authority upon said employees on behalf of said corporation." The trial judge did not err in overruling the special demurrer. That one or more of these employees was acting within the scope of his employment was a fact to be proved on the trial by competent evidence, if the same was not admitted by the defendants in their answer. This fact could be proved either by showing specific authority or it might be inferred from all of the facts and circumstances of the case. In this connection, see the Code, 4-301, 4-302; McClure Ten Cent Co. v. Humphries, 33 Ga. App. 523 (2) (127 S. E. 151); Martin & Hicks v. Bridges & Jelks Co., 18 Ga. App. 24 (88 S. E.. 747), and citations.
4. The allegations of count two of the petition are very similar to those of count one, except that the plaintiff alleges that the action is based upon the alleged slanderous remarks of the defendant Nicholas "by direction of and in the exercise of his authority as general manager and principal stockholder in said defendant corporation and while acting in the scope of his authority vested in him by said corporation and by its direction" that the plaintiff and his brother had stolen goods worth $1000 or more from the plant of the corporate defendant. The petition set out the names of three parties, one of whom was an employee of the defendant corporation, who heard the remarks made by the defendant Nicholas, and set out the names of two others who had heard of the alleged slanderous remarks from others. The defendant filed general demurrers to this count of the petition upon the grounds that the count failed to state a cause of action against the defendants; that the remarks were privileged because made bona fide in the performance of a public duty, or in the performance of a private duty and made with the bona fide intention on the part of the speaker to protect his own interest in a matter where it was concerned; and that the petition showed an accord and satisfaction barring recovery by the plaintiff.
The case of Cochran v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 72 Ga. App. 458 (34 S. E. 2d, 296), is different on its facts from the present case. In the Cochran case, the court held, "The inference to be drawn from a proper construction of the petition is that the defendants were acting in good faith with respect to the alleged slanderous statements and conduct; that the statements were mace bona fide in the performance of a private duty and were made with the bona fide intent, on their part to protect their own interest in a matter where it was concerned, and also to protect the interest of the plaintiff and her own children; that the statements were made to proper persons, on proper occasions, and were properly limited in their scope." In the present case, it cannot be said as a matter of law that the statements were made only to proper persons on proper occasions and were properly limited in their scope, where it appears from the allegations of the petition that the alleged statements were heard by three neighbors of the plaintiff, two of whom are not alleged to be employees of the defendants. The trial judge did not err in overruling the general demurrers that the count failed to allege a cause of action and that the alleged statements were privileged.
5. Nor did the court err in overruling the general demurrer that the allegations of count two showed an accord and satisfaction. The fact that the plaintiff may have paid the defendants a sum of money to secure his release from an illegal imprisonment would not be an acknowledgment that the charge made against him was true, or act as an estoppel on the part of such plaintiff to sue to recover the money paid to secure his release from the unlawful imprisonment and to recover damages for slanderous statements made by the defendants in connection with such false imprisonment.
6. The trial judge did not err in overruling the special demurrer of the defendants to count two, that it was not alleged who conferred authority upon the employees of the defendant corporation to permit the plaintiff and his brother to enter the defendants' plant and remove the trash and refuse therefrom. In this connection, see Code, 4-301, 4-302; McClure Ten Cent Co. v. Humphries, supra; Martin & Hicks v. Bridges & Jelks Co., supra.
7. The other grounds of demurrer are not argued in the brief of counsel for the plaintiffs in error and will be treated as abandoned.
Malcom C. Tarver, contra.
Pittman, Hodge & Kinney, for plaintiffs in error.
DECIDED NOVEMBER 9, 1951.
Saturday May 23 05:21 EDT


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