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HENRY BAUGH, JR. v. CYNTHIA McARTHUR DALE WESTERFIELD BAUGH

SEPTEMBER 23, 1987

HENRY BAUGH, JR.
v.
CYNTHIA McARTHUR DALE WESTERFIELD BAUGH



BEFORE WALKER, C.J.; DAN M. LEE AND ROBERTSON, JJ.

ROBERTSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

Plaintiff, an elderly social security disability recipient, took offense and sued his former daughter-in-law for slander because she told a disability determination worker she did not know he was disabled and had never known him to wear a neck brace. Plaintiff's imagination exceeded his judgment, which was summarily entered and provided that he take nothing. We affirm. II.

 A.

 Henry Baugh, Jr. (Baugh) was born December 31, 1920. He lives in Brandon, Mississippi. Baugh was the Plaintiff below and is the Appellant here.

 Cynthia McArthur Dale Westerfield Baugh *fn1 (Cynthia) lives in Jackson, Mississippi; she is the former wife of Henry Baugh's only son, Tommy. Cynthia and Tommy Baugh separated in the spring or summer of 1979. It is not clear from the record when their divorce was final. Cynthia Baugh was the Defendant below and is the Appellee here.

 Henry Baugh began receiving Social Security disability benefits in February of 1972. At that time he was 51 years of age. The bases for his disability were vertigo and arthritis in his spine. In February or March of 1982, Baugh received a letter from the Social Security Administration to the effect that his benefits would be terminated because "from the information they had on their files that I would become able to go back to work in January of '82."

 In May of 1982 Baugh was apparently on a television program in Jackson regarding some aspect of his disability claim. Cynthia saw the program and on May 17, 1982, called the Social Security office in Jackson and uttered the said-to-be slanderous words upon which this action is based.

 On May 17, 1982, Becky Ruggles was an employee of the Disability Determination Services which assisted the Social Security Administration in determining eligibility for benefits. On that date Ruggles received a telephone call from an individual who identified herself as "Cindy Baugh." The call was in regard to the claim of Henry Baugh. Ruggles made a notation in Baugh's file which in relevant part reads as follows:

 Ms. Baugh called . . . as an interested

 party in this case. She said she's the former daughter-in-law of this claimant. She said she was unaware that the claimant was disabled and wanted to know what was going on in the case. She said she had already talked to someone in our office about the case. She had seen the claimant on T.V. the other night and she wanted SA to know that in all the years she was married to claimant's son, she had not known claimant to wear a neck brace. She said she wanted to report all this to the examiner handling the claim.

 The rest of the notation suggests that the caller, Cindy Baugh, was having trouble with child support. It contains a comment to the effect that claimant Henry Baugh appeared to live in "a mansion." The caller had asked questions concerning the status of the claim. The tenor of the remainder of the report is that the caller was inquiring about a possible source for collecting back child support, although this conclusion requires a slight amount of reading between the lines.

 Cynthia Baugh denies making the call. The report Ruggles placed in Baugh's file suggests that the telephone number of the caller "Cindy Baugh" was 373-7717. That was the telephone number of Video Dynamics, Baugh's employer at the time. In the present posture of the ...


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