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Blackleg

list, appear, publisher, register, sale, libel, person and action

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BLACKLEG is the epithet applied to a man who either refuses to join a trade-union, or when employees are out on strike enters into the service of the employer who is an object of, or a party to, the strike. The word would not in itself sustain an action for libel or slander, unless it could be shown that special damage had resulted from its use. In another connection the word signifies a cheater at cards, and could give rise to an action, provided the bystanders or others in whose presence it was used understood its meaning in that sense.

BLACK is a term applied to lists of names published in trade or other journals, for the purpose of warning their readers or the public against dealings with the persons mentioned. Such a list may appear in various forms. It may be practically the sole contents of a journal or gazette, devoted to the publication of the names of those who have been adjudicated bankrupts, or have made arrangements with their creditors, or have granted bills of sale on their personal effects, or against whom judgments have been entered ; or it may be a list of persons similarly situated but limited to those who are connected with a certain trade, such list being inserted in, and taking up only a small portion of a journal devoted to the interests of that particular trade. Though the publication of such lists is of the greatest benefit to traders, and indeed to the solvent class of the community generally, it is obviously, on the other hand, a great disadvantage and a distinct pre judice to those m hose names have the misfortune to be included therein. The first and very natural impression upon recognising a name in such a list, is that the owner is in financial difliculties—the general character of the list compels this impression. And yet it is possible for a person to appear therein whose solvency and credit may be undoubted ; for example, we read that A. has given a bill of sale, and that B. is the subject of a County Court judgment. If the true facts of the case were known, it might appear that the bill of sale was an absolute one, and represented an ordinary and bond fide sale of chattels only, except that the chattels u ere for good reasons to remain in the possession of A. for a certain period ; and it might also appear that B. had really been defending fide an outrageous claim for damages for personal injuries, which, as a result of his defence, had been materially reduced, the judgment appearing in the register because the plaintiff had delayed taxation of costs, until when the defendant had in his turn delayed satisfaction. But nevertheless the stigma of appearing in the list will remain ;

and consequently when the appearance there is absolutely unwarranted, there arises a serious and proper question as to the legal position of the party injured. It becomes, in fact, a question of libel, and it is as a branch of the law of libel that we propose dealing with it here. Assuming a person to be aggrieved upon finding his name and address set out in such a list, and he sues the publisher for damages, what are the defences mainly available to the latter ? Generally speaking, they would be three in number ; it could be pleaded that the entry was true in substance and in fact, or that it was a true extract from an official register open to public inspection; or that the list and the journal in which it was published was privileged. For the defendant to sustain either of these pleas would be for the plaintiff to fail in his action. We will consider these defences in order.

the head of a list of judgments there will probably appear the following words, or words to like effect : "No distinction is made in the register between actions for debt, or damages, or properly disputed cases, neither is it known which of the judgments remain unpaid at the present time, and it is probable that a large proportion of them have been settled between the parties or paid. It may also be observed that some of the judgments registered are against defendants in a representative capacity." This being so, no action will lie in the case of a mistaken entry unless it can be proved that, although the entry was in the register, the publisher knew that at the time of such entry the judgment was satisfied, and that the publisher republished it himself maliciously. The essence of a libel is that it should be defamatory, but in a case where such a headnote as the above exists, the insertion in the list cannot be alleged to suggest that the defendant was insolvent, and a person to whom credit ought not to be given. But the case would be different if the publisher had made a mistake, fathering the identity of the debtor upon the wrong man. So would it be in the case of a list of meetings of creditors, if the publisher inserted such a wrong name for the debtor as to suggest another person.

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