Tbe appeal presents tbe single question whether tbe plaintiff may be permitted to maintain ber action for libel when tbe defamatory matter complained of was contained in pleadings filed in proceedings in a court of competent jurisdiction. Tbe defense is tbat pertinent statements contained in pleadings in court are absolutely privileged, and no action thereon can arise.
Undoubtedly, tbe general rule is tbat pleadings are privileged when pertinent and relevant to tbe subject under judicial inquiry, however false and malicious tbe defamatory statements may be. Baggett v. Grady, 154 N. C., 342, 70 S. E., 618; Nissen v. Cramer, 104 N. C., 574, 10 S. E., 676; 33 Am. Jur., 145. But in this case it is made to appear from tbe plaintiff’s evidence tbat in a former suit between tbe same parties, wherein tbe questions of tbe legitimacy of ber children and hex lawful marriage were being litigated, these defendants solemnly agreed to a judgment containing tbe recital tbat tbe plaintiff was tbe widow of J. M. Harshaw, and tbat ber children were bis legitimate children. Thereafter, tbe defendants filed answers in two other proceedings in court between tbe same parties concerning tbe same or similar subject matter, and again set out tbe defamatory charges of incontinence on tbe part of tbe plaintiff and tbe illegitimacy of ber children. Under these circumstances, may tbe defendants be permitted to interpose tbe defense *148of absolute privilege to an action for libel for repeating charges which by solemn agreement and by judicial determination had been declared untrue? We cannot so hold. We think the defendants were estopped by the judgment, and that the defamatory matter set up in the answers was not relevant and available as a defense. The occasion in this respect was no longer one of absolute privilege. The defendants were stripped of the protection accorded statements in judicial pleadings by the former judgment to which they were parties and to which they agreed, and may not now be heard to claim privilege for the publication of defamation which it thus had been judicially established was false. Armfield v. Moore, 44 N. C., 157; Crawford v. Crawford, 214 N. C., 614, 200 S. E., 421; Gibbs v. Higgins, 215 N. C., 201, 1 S. E. (2d), 554. “There is no doubt that a final judgment or decree necessarily affirming the existence of any fact is conclusive upon the parties or their privies, whenever the existence of that fact is again in issue between them, not only when the subject matter is the same, but when the point comes incidentally in question in relation to a different matter, in the same or any other court.” 2 Freeman on Judgments, sec. 670.
That the matter contained in the answers, of which plaintiff complains, is libelous (C. S., 2432; Bryant v. Reedy, 214 N. C., 748, 200 S. E., 896), and that the filing of the answers in the Superior Court of Caldwell County constituted publication, seems beyond question. Hedgepeth v. Coleman, 183 N. C., 309, 111 S. E., 517; Davis v. Retail Stores, 211 N. C., 551, 191 S. E., 33; Flake v. News Co., 212 N. C., 780, 195 S. E., 55.
We conclude that the court below was in error in allowing motion for judgment of nonsuit, and that the judgment must be
WiNBORNE, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of this easel