The opinion of the court was delivered by: GOURLEY
This is a political libel and defamation action arising out of a general election for the office of County Commissioner in a county of the State of Ohio, based on a political advertisement published in a newspaper in the State of Pennsylvania, the afternoon before Election Day.
To sustain a right to recover, actual malice must be found to exist at the time the political advertisement was published. Malice is defined as publication with knowledge of its falsity or publication with reckless disregard of whether the matters in the political advertisement were true or false.
In view of the intricacies of the proceeding the court separated liability from damages and submitted special verdicts to the jury. Findings were made that certain statements in the political advertisement were false and made with reckless disregard of their truth or falsity. However, the finding was also made that there was no actual malice.
In view of the jury finding that the publication was in part false and made with reckless disregard of truth or falsity, the court construed said finding to be finding of liability.
Substantial evidence exists to support the finding that the publication was in part false as found by the jury.
I must conclude, however, that considering all the evidence and the reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom most favorable to the plaintiff that as a matter of law the evidence is not sufficient to support the finding that the publication was made with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the political advertisement.
Consistent with said conclusion, the Court on the basis of Rule 50(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure entered judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff.
This opinion is entered in support of the conclusion and order entered by the court after jury verdict.
Was or was not sufficient evidence presented to establish by the fair preponderance or weight of all the credible evidence that part of the matters in the political advertisement were false and made with reckless disregard of whether it was true or false.
The showing of malice may not be presumed but is a matter for proof by the plaintiff. Since the question is one of alleged trespass across the line between speech unconditionally guaranteed and speech which may legitimately be regulated, the court must examine for itself the statements in issue and the circumstances under which they were made to see * * * whether they are of a character which the ...