Ross v. Pines

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Ross v. Pines, Wythe 69 (1789), was a case in which a person was accused of slandering another's title to slaves, thereby reducing the slaves' sale price.[1]


Ross wrote a letter to John Davis stating that there was a dispute over whether Pines had clear title to some slaves Pines was about to put up for auction. Both Ross and Pines demurred that this letter was the source of rumors that led to Pines' slaves being sold in private for much less money than Pines would have received for them at a public auction. Originally, a jury found for Pines, awarding him £500. Ross brought a bill for relief from the verdict, and in a second trial, The King and Queen District Court asked the jury how much they would award Pines if they were to find for him - this time, the jury awarded Pines £1000 - but certified the question to the High Court of Chancery, stating that it did not find that the weight of the evidence supported Pines. The High Court of Chancery held that Ross's letter was the only possible source of the rumors that reduced the value of Pines's slaves, and that even though that did not appear to be Ross's intent, Ross should still be required to compensate Pines. The High Court of Chancery restored the original award of damages to Pines for £500.


  1. George Wythe, Decisions of Cases in Virginia by the High Court of Chancery, (Richmond: Printed by Thomas Nicolson, 1795), 69. The Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia affirmed the High Court of Chancery's decision in Ross v. Pines, 7 Va. (3 Call) 568 (1790).