January 3rd, 2018 by Rieders Travis in Defamation

Menkowitz v. Peerless Publications, 2017 Pa. Super. LEXIS 1043 (December 15, 2017) Stabile, J.  This is an action where defamation commenced by a private-figure plaintiff against a media defendant involving an issue of public interest.  The court threw out the verdict and entered judgment for the newspaper on a punitive damage award. The Superior Court vacated the judgment in favor of the doctor-plaintiff in its entirety and remanded for entry of judgment in favor of the publication.  The plaintiff is a board certified surgeon.  The doctor’s behavior in the hospital was bad, and he was threatened by the hospital for his disruptive and unacceptable conduct.  Finally, the doctor’s privileges were suspended.  Four articles written about this by a newspaper columnist who talked about the rumors surrounding the doctor.  There were also quotes from various patients.  No formal action against the doctor’s medical license was taken by the State Board of Medicine, according to the State Department spokesman.  Eventually, the newspaper reported that the suspension was lifted.  The doctor alleged an injury to reputation and emotional and psychological injuries.  A private figure plaintiff suing a media defendant for defamation must prove…


October 19th, 2016 by Rieders Travis in Defamation

Coleman v. Ogden Newspapers, Inc., 142 A.3d 898 (Pa. Super. 2016).  Adam C. Coleman appeals from the order that dismissed his complaint after granting the motion fo summary judgment filed by Ogden Newspapers, Inc. d/b/a The Lock Haven Express (The Express), Ogden Publications of Pennsylvania, Inc., Robert O. Rolley, and James E. Runkle (Defendants, collectively).  We affirm. The issue before us in this appeal is whether the trial court erred in concluding that Coleman failed to come forth with sufficient evidence to meet his burden of production as to the actual malice prongs of his defamation and false light claims. We conclude as a matter of law that Coleman did not present evidence that could lead a fact-finder to the clear conviction, without hesitancy, that Defendants published any false statements about him with actual malice.  Accordingly, we hold that the trial court properly granted Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. Order affirmed.


March 29th, 2016 by Rieders Travis in Defamation

Joseph v. Scranton Times, L.P., 129 A.3d 404 (Pa. 2015).  Business owners and businesses brought defamation and invasion of privacy action against newspaper reporters based on newspaper articles indicating a connection between the business and various criminal activities.  There was a bench trial at the Common Pleas level, and judgment was entered for the owners and businesses.  The newspaper appealed.  The Superior Court affirmed in part, vacated in part, reversed in part and remanded.  The Supreme Court concurred in part and dissented in part. The Superior Court erred in granting the business owners a new trial and the case was reversed.  In an action for defamation the plaintiff has the burden of proving (1) the defamatory character of the communication; (2) its publication by the defendant; (3) its application to the plaintiff; (4) the understanding by the recipient of its defamatory meaning; (5) the understanding by the recipient of it as intended to be applied to the plaintiff; (6) special harm resulting to the plaintiff from its publication; (7) abuse of conditionally privileged occasion.  42 Pa.C.S. § 8343(a).  Where the plaintiff has met this burden under the Act, defendant has…