Case Summary: Morgan v Lingen (1863)

Case Summary: Morgan v Lingen




Morgan v Lingen (1863) 8 LT (NS) 800




Ms. Morgan was a governess in the city of Hereford in England. At a flower show, Ms. Morgan and Mrs. Lingen passed each other and Mrs. Lingen cried out that Ms. Morgan had pushed her and struck her on the arm. 

Mr. Lingen sent a letter to various people which stated that he had no doubt that Ms. Morgan's mind had been affected, that she appeared to be off her head, and that she had the delusion that Mrs. Lingen stood in her way at the flower show. 

The imputation is that Ms. Morgan is insane. 


Ratio Decidendi


Principle: An imputation of insanity is presumed to be defamatory. 

At page 801, it was held:

...a statement in writing that a lady's mind is affected, and that seriously, is without explanation prima facie a libel, and therefore the letter to Mrs. Williams of the 5th of September was prima facie a libel. 

Principle: A valid defence is in the circumstance where the defendant thought it was a duty to inform and the defendant informed quickly, honestly, and without malice. 

At page 801, it was held:

Such a publication is malicious unless made by a person in discharge of a public or private duty out of a matter in which he is concerned, made without malice; but, if fairly warranted by any reasonable exigency and honestly made, it would be privileged. 

In this case, at page 801, the defendant submitted:

...he had never imputed actual insanity to the plaintiff, but that he had only communicated his honest belief that she laboured under delusions of monomania, and that from other circumstances that had been communicated to him and her conduct at the flower show, he thought it had become his duty to her relations and that who took an interest in her his opinion on the subject.




Verdict for the defendant, Mr. Lingen. 

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Defamation Law in Australia

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