235 Mass. 146

January 12, 1920 - February 28, 1920

Suffolk County


Slander. Evidence, Presumptions and burden of proof.

In the declaration in an action of tort for slander, the plaintiff alleged that the defendant "in the Italian language" called her "buttana," which in the English language meant a whore. The plaintiff's evidence tended to show that the word was used in the presence of others who understood its meaning and that it was in the Sicilian dialect. There was a finding for the plaintiff. Held, that the finding was warranted.

TORT for slander, the plaintiff alleging in substance that the defendant stated "of the plaintiff in the Italian language substantially as follows: 'Maria Bellingherie e buttana' (meaning in the English language that 'Maria Bellingheri is a whore')." Writ in the Municipal Court of the City of Boston dated September 3, 1918.

The material evidence at the trial in the Municipal Court is described in the opinion. At the close of the evidence, the defendant asked the judge to rule that, (1) on all the evidence the defendant was entitled to a finding, and that (2) a finding for the plaintiff could not be made on the evidence.

The rulings were refused. The judge found for the plaintiff in the sum of $50, and, at the request of the defendant, reported the case to the Appellate Division, who denied the report. The defendant appealed.

F. M. Zottoli, for the defendant, submitted a brief.

J. A. Vitelli, for the plaintiff.

DE COURCY, J. In this action for speaking slanderous words in Italian concerning the plaintiff, the declaration properly set out the words as spoken in the foreign language and also their meaning in English. Romano v. De Vito, 191 Mass. 457. There

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was evidence that the defendant called the plaintiff "Maria Bellingherie e buttana;" that "buttana" is a word in the Sicilian dialect meaning "whore" in English; and that it was spoken in the presence of others who understood its meaning.

The evidence on behalf of the defendant was that she called the plaintiff a "banniana;" meaning, in a Sicilian dialect, "either a she Town Crier or a she Hawker." Apparently this was the only defence relied upon. It was a question for the trial judge to decide what words were used by the defendant, and what meaning they naturally conveyed to the understanding of the persons in whose presence they were uttered. In finding for the plaintiff he necessarily decided this and all the other issues of fact in her favor. Downs v. Hawley, 112 Mass. 237. Miller v. Parish, 8 Pick. 384. Kenney v. McLaughlin, 5 Gray 3. See Whiting v. Smith, 13 Pick. 364; Rutherford v. Paddock, 180 Mass. 289; 15 Ann. Cas. 1242 note.

Order dismissing report affirmed.