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C. B. FULTON AND JEANETTE F. FULTON v. MISSISSIPPI PUBLISHERS CORPORATION

SEPTEMBER 17, 1986

C. B. FULTON AND JEANETTE F. FULTON
v.
MISSISSIPPI PUBLISHERS CORPORATION, d/b/a OCEAN SPRINGS RECORD, AND WAYNE W. WEIDIE



BEFORE HAWKINS, P.J.; ROBERTSON AND GRIFFIN, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

This defamation action arises from an article published in a Gulf Coast newspaper questioning a former alderman's claim to lands arguably public. The alderman, however, is not the plaintiff. Instead, the grantors of a quitclaim deed delivered to the former alderman claim the newspaper's arrows have hit an unintended target and defamed them along with the alderman.

 The Circuit Court held, inter alia, that as a matter of law the grantors had not been libeled and dismissed the complaint. We affirm.

 II.

 On June 24, 1982, the Ocean Springs Record, a newspaper owned and operated by Mississippi Publishers Corporation, published a front page article headlined

 Former alderman's land

 Title search raises questions

 The article appears under the byline of news editor Julia Nichols. The fourteen paragraph article raised questions whether Joe B. Garrard, a former city alderman, held valid title to certain marshland property that had been assessed to him by the City of Ocean Springs since 1974.

 In discussing Garrard's claim of title to the land, the article refers to a quitclaim deed executed in 1970 by D. B. [sic]

 Fulton and Jeanette F. Fulton to Garrard. At most, fifteen lines out of the 125 line article (which in its entirety is an appendix to this opinion) have reference to the Fultons:

 A 1970 quitclaim deed from D. B. Fulton and Jeanette Fulton includes the marshland property, but no evidence could be found that the Fultons ever owned the property quitclaimed. One obviously cannot convey property one does not own.

 * * * *

 Some questions that remain to be answered are why the Fultons signed a quitclaim deed for land they did not own and why no one was paying taxes on the marshland property between 1970 and 1974. If, as MacWhorter suggests, no taxes were assessed, why not? Why were changes made on the basis of a ...


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