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TIMMONS v. THE NEWS & PRESS

April 18, 1958

HAROLD TIMMONS, APPELLANT,
v.
THE NEWS & PRESS, INC., RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Taylor, Justice.

April 18, 1958.

This appeal is from an Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Darlington County sustaining respondent's demurrer to appellant's amended complaint upon the grounds that the article published in respondent's newspaper was "not libelous per se nor is it so by innuendo."

The amended complaint, omitting formal parts, is as follows:

"2. That on or about April 25, 1957, plaintiff was engaged in a business as a merchant in Darlington, South Carolina, and was of good name, fame and credit as such.

"3. That on said day the defendant maliciously, wilfully, and recklessly intended to and did injure plaintiff in his said business by composing and publishing at Darlington, South Carolina, in the defendant's newspaper, the following false, defamatory, sensational, malicious, reckless and insinuating article matter, to wit:

"`Back Lot 35-Cent Drunks Plague Darlington Police

"`You can get on a good drunk for less than 35 cents if you don't mind risking your life or the taste of bay rum. And hundreds of Darlington County residents are doing it, buying an estimated $1,000.00 a week, in the once-popular shaving lotion.

"`There ought to be something done about the problem, Chief J. Peele Privette told The News and Press this week, observing that one "back lot" store in Darlington is reported to have sold $500.00 in bay rum in one week.

"`At 35 cents a pint, that would pay for over 1400 binges. Even the most seasoned vagrant wouldn't need over a pint.

"`The concoction is 50 per cent alcohol, and a pint of it will give you the same kick as a pint of 100 proof whiskey, which would cost three dollars. The difference in cost of the drunks is thus $2.65. This explains the bay rum popularity.

"`Of course, the label on the bottle stresses "for external use only", but this seldom worries the habitual users, who according to Chief Privette, predominantly are white. There have been no known deaths from the alcoholic liquid, here recently, but there is no doubt but that it is harmful to the human body, when used inside rather than outside.

"`A study is being made here to try to control the problem. Chief Privette states. There is no state law governing its sale. Numerous cites, including Augusta, Georgia, have imposed a prohibitive tax on bay rum and have thus limited its sale.

"`In the meantime, 45 per cent of the drunks arrested in the city of Darlington got that way on bay rum. Chief Privette says that tonic seems to make more belligerent-meaner-drunks than whiskey. Sometimes when several of the inebriated prisoners are locked up at the same time and it gets a little warm, the smell of bay rum from their bodies gives a flagrant fragrance to the jail.

"`Although there is one most popular source of the potent tonic in Darlington, bay rum can be bought in variety stores in the county. One local druggist said he discontinued stocking the item when it was ...


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