Philadelphia, W. & B. R. Co. v. Quigley - 62 U.S. 202 (1858)
U.S. Supreme Court
Philadelphia, W. & B. R. Co. v. Quigley, 62 U.S. 21 How. 202 202 (1858)
Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad Company v. Quigley
62 U.S. (21 How.) 202
A railroad company is responsible in its corporate capacity for acts done by its agents, either ex contractu or in delicto, in the course of its business and of their employment.
It is responsible, therefore, in an action for the publication of a libel.
It is within the course of its business and the employment of the president and directors for them to investigate the conduct of their officers and agents and report the result to the stockholders.
But a publication of this report must be made under the conditions and responsibilities that attach to individuals under such circumstances.
In the absence of any malice or bad faith, a report to the stockholders is a privileged communication. But this privilege does not extend to the preservation of the report and evidence in a book for distribution amongst the persons belonging to the corporation or the members of the community.
So far, therefore, as the corporation authorized the publication in the form employed, they are responsible in damages.
But the instruction of the circuit court was erroneous holding the corporation responsible for a publication which took place after the commencement of the suit. Also an instruction allowing the jury to give exemplary damages, because there was no evidence that the injury was inflicted maliciously or wantonly.
Under the general issue plea, no question could be raised as to the capacity of the parties to sue in the circuit court.
This was an action on the case for libel brought by Quigley against the railroad company under the circumstances which are fully set forth in the opinion of the Court, which also contains the instructions of the circuit court to the jury.