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THOMAS EDGAR CHATHAM d/b/a EDGAR'S LOUNGE v. GULF PUBLISHING COMPANY

FEBRUARY 04, 1987

THOMAS EDGAR CHATHAM d/b/a EDGAR'S LOUNGE
v.
GULF PUBLISHING COMPANY, INC.



BEFORE HAWKINS, P.J., ROBERTSON & SULLIVAN, JJ.

SULLIVAN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This libel action arises from a complaint filed by Thomas Edgar Chatham d/b/a Edgar's Lounge, alleging that Gulf Publishing Company, Inc., through a series of articles appearing in two of its newspapers, falsely reported that police answered a disturbance call at his lounge on Howard Avenue in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The circuit court held, inter alia, that as a matter

 of law Chatham had not been libeled, and granted unto Gulf Publishing Company a summary judgment. We affirm.

 The appellee, Gulf Publishing Company, publishes two newspapers on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, a morning paper known as The Sun and an evening paper known as The Daily Herald. On the weekends the two newspapers are combined and published as The Saturday Paper and The Sunday Paper, respectively. On March 15, 1982, The Sunday Paper published a news story concerning Hershel H. Jernigan of Biloxi, Mississippi, who had been seriously injured in a fight the previous night. The story reported that the fight occurred at a Biloxi lounge and that Jernigan was found in critical condition by police at Edgar's Lounge, an establishment owned and operated by the appellant, Thomas Edgar Chatham. Jernigan died on March 15, 1982, and the March 16th edition of The Sun published a story of his death and the fact that his assailants had been charged with murder. The Sun article correctly stated that the alleged attack on Jernigan occurred" on a Biloxi Street about midnight Friday. "On the same day, The Daily Herald published a similar story which reported that authorities found Mr. Jernigan in critical condition upon their arrival at the scene, the scene being Edgar's Lounge.

 Chatham sued Gulf Publishing Company in a libel action seeking damages in the sum of $100,000.00, such damages being the result of the alleged libelous articles appearing in editions of the defendant newspaper. In his complaint Chatham alleged that the newspaper articles in question falsely imputed that a fight occurred at or within his place of business and were libelous in that they inferred that his business establishment was an unsafe environment for its patrons. Chatham further alleged that by reason of the publication of the allegedly false and defamatory statements, his business had been injured in its reputation and lost the good will and trade of many persons with whom he would have otherwise had a profitable business. The articles of which Chatham complains are the following:

 Biloxi man's condition critical following fight

 A Biloxi man was listed in critical condition Saturday night at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport where he was being treated for injuries apparently sustained during a fight at a Biloxi lounge.

 A spokesman for the Biloxi Police Department said officers found Hershel Jernigan, 57, of Hood Lane, in critical condition when they arrived at

 Edgar's Lounge on Howard Avenue about 3 a.m. Saturday. There apparently had been a fight, and Brent Strong and Paula Hudson, both 19 and both of Biloxi, were charged with aggravated assault in the incident; however, police said Jernigan appeared to have been a bystander.

 Strong and Hudson are being held under $10,000 bond each.

 Biloxian charged in death

 Nineteen-year-old Brent Strong of Biloxi has been charged with murder in the death of Hershel Jernigan, 57, also of Biloxi.

 Jernigan, 240 Hood Lane, died Sunday after he had undergone emergency surgery for head injuries Saturday, following an apparent fight where police ...


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