Appeal from the Superior Court of Baltimore City; Harlan, J.
Henderson, Hammond, Horney, Marbury and Sybert, JJ. Marbury, J., delivered the opinion of the Court.
Having previously met in the halls of justice with appellant Heath as attorney representing clients in law suits opposing appellee Hughes, the two have now clashed in direct opposition in a libel suit instituted by the former against the latter. A directed verdict in favor of the appellee has brought the parties to this Court. We are asked to decide whether the trial court properly granted the defendant's motion offered at the conclusion of the plaintiff's case on the grounds that the writing was not libelous per se and, further, since there was no evidence of special damages, there was no basis for a finding of libel per quod.
The declaration was in two counts. Count I charged libel per se. Count II, adopting the allegations of Count I purported to set forth the necessary allegations to explain by inducement, colloquium and innuendo that the writing was libelous per quod.
The appellant, John F. Heath, is a practicing attorney who previously operated a successful electrical contracting business, but who retired from that business in 1954 to devote his time thereafter exclusively to the practice of law. The appellee, Joseph F. Hughes, is the president of Joseph F. Hughes & Co., Inc., general contractors. On several occasions prior to 1954, Heath had submitted unsuccessful bids to the Hughes company for electrical subcontracting, but he met Hughes personally for the first time in 1955. As an attorney representing the Central Electric Company, Heath appeared in opposition to Hughes' unsuccessful law suit against the City of Baltimore for $610,000.
Heath and Hughes had a second encounter during 1955 when
Heath, again as an attorney, represented one William Stockhausen, trading as Central Electric Company, in a substantial claim against Hughes for money due for labor and materials. Unsuccessful in collecting, suit was filed by Heath for Central Electric against Hughes and the plaintiff recovered a judgment.
There was no further contact between Heath and Hughes until about 1961 when events leading to the instant suit occurred. At that time Heath was retained as attorney for George A. Peters of The George A. Peters Company, which had performed some electrical subcontracting work for Hughes and was having difficulty obtaining payment therefor. Peters turned the collection of the claim (approximately $59,000) against Hughes over to Heath. Heath thereupon made demand on Hughes in behalf of Peters by letter dated October 26, 1961, as follows:
Joseph F. Hughes Co., Inc.
Re: Overlea Senior High School
I have been retained by The George A. Peters Company to collect the amount due them for labor and materials furnished and installed by them on the Overlea ...