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UNITED STATES EX REL. MAY v. AMERICAN MACH. CO.

November 6, 1953

UNITED STATES ex rel. MAY
v.
AMERICAN MACHINERY Co., Inc. et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DRIVER

On March 19, 1953, Raymond May, as plaintiff, commenced, in this Court, an action for damages for personal injuries against American Machinery Company, a corporation, as defendant. After defendant had appeared in the action, and plaintiff had demanded a jury trial, but before the case had been set for trial, plaintiff May, as relator, filed herein his petition requesting that respondents be cited and punished for contempt of court. An order to show cause was issued and served upon the respondents. By their motions to dismiss, respondents question the jurisdiction of this Court and the sufficiency of the petition to support the relief requested.

Summarized, briefly, the petition recites that respondents have conspired and acted in concert to interfere with the administration of justice in this Court and in relator's action against the American Machinery Company by instructing jurors and prospective jurors in the manner and method of adjudicating facts and evidence and assessing damages in that action, and other actions, and have endeavored to influence and induce jurors to return verdicts in favor of defendants is actions brought for damages for personal injuries sustained by plaintiffs. Specifically, the petition alleges that respondents have sought to accomplish such objectives by the publication of certain articles in The Saturday Evening Post and the distribution and circulation thereof in the State of Washington and elsewhere. As an example of such articles, relator sets out, as an exhibit to the petition, a copy of an advertisement from The Saturday Evening Post of February 28, 1953.

The advertisement consists of a picture which depicts two men sitting facing each other in a well-furnished living room. The younger man appears to be talking very earnestly to the older one. Underneath and picture, in bold type, is the title: 'Bill Set Me Straight On Jury Awards' and, in smaller print, the following text:

 'Bill's my son, a senior in Law school. Last night I told him about my recent experience as a juror.

 'As a businessman, I knew the woman involved in the trial was legally at fault. She walked into a moving car. But she was a widow with a child to support. And I felt certain that the driver of the car was insured.

 'The doctor said that the widow wouldn't be able to hold down a steady job for at least a year, so we awarded her a healthy sum. After all, her child must eat.

 "But the law,' said Bill, 'clearly states that the verdict must be based on legal liability, fault for the accident, as determined by the evidence.'

 "The insurance company can afford to pay,' I protested.

 "But claims,' argued Bill, 'must be paid out of premiums belonging to thousands of policyholders, including widows, too. And don't forget, when premium collections do not cover claims, everybody's insurance rates -- including yours -- have to go up."

 'You know, sometimes it pays to listen * * * even to your son.'

 In a boxed insert, there is printed the following:

 'Most claims for damages are legitimate and reasonable, and are amicably settled out of court. However, as jurors tend more and more to give excessive awards in cases that do go to court, such valuations are regarded as establishing the 'going' rate for the day-to-day out-of-court claims -- all of which means increased insurance premium cost to the public.

 'American-Associated Insurance Companies

 'American Automobile Insurance Company Associated Indemnity Corporation Saint ...


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