We Provide Representation in Pennsylvania
We Provide Representation in New York
We Provide Representation in New Jersey
We Provide Representation in Florida
We Provide Representation in West Virginia
We Provide Representation in Delaware
We Provide Representation in Maryland

MSZL&M Secures Summary Judgment in Pennsylvania Defamation Case

Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers LLP recently secured a summary dismissal of a retail defendant in a defamation case filed in Pennsylvania by arguing that the plaintiff failed to establish in the record a prima facie case of defamation. 

The store manager previously banned the plaintiff from the store for threatening employees.  Plaintiff entered the store, despite the ban, and created a scene.  The store manager called the police and reported the plaintiff’s threatening behavior.  The plaintiff denied threatening employees and claimed to law enforcement that the store manager falsely reported a crime, damaging his reputation.

By arguing that the plaintiff had failed to meet his burden of establishing defamation, MSZL&M succeeded in its Motion for Summary Judgment.  Specifically, counsel argued that the plaintiff failed to:

  1. Prove the store manager’s statements to the police were not privileged; and
  2. Prove the store manager abused this privilege.

The judge agreed.

In Pennsylvania, a plaintiff must prove all of the following statutory elements for defamation:

  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; and
  7. abuse of a conditionally privileged occasion. 

See, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8343(a).  

Under Pennsylvania case authority, a defendant’s statement to law enforcement officials for the purpose of reporting a crime are absolutely privileged and cannot constitute actionable defamation, unless the defendant abuses the privilege.  See, Pawlowski v. Smorto, 403 Pa. Super. 71, 588 A.2d 36 (1991).  Abuse occurs when a defendant make these statements to individuals outside of law enforcement.

The plaintiff failed to articulate at any point in the record that the store manager’s statements were not made to law enforcement officials for the purpose of reporting a crime. Further, the judge found that the store manager did not abuse this privilege and granted summary judgment.


Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers L.L.P. publishes this site to provide general information regarding certain fields of law to our clients and friends. As every situation is unique and the facts and advice would vary with individual circumstances, the information contained on this site does not constitute legal advice. Transmittal of information from this site or any use of electronic mail is not intended to create or establish an attorney-client relationship between Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers L.L.P. and anyone else. Do not send any information until you speak with one of our attorneys and receive authorization to do so. If any communication from this site is not in conformity with the rules and regulations of any state governing lawyer conduct, Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers L.L.P. will not accept representation which is based on such communication.
 
Mintzer Sarowitz Zeris Ledva & Meyers L.L.P. has offices in Wilmington, DE, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh PA, Wheeling, WV, New York and Long Island NY, Cherry Hill NJ, Miami and Tampa, FL. None of the attorneys listed in this Web site are certified as an "expert" or "specialist" pursuant to any authority governing the practice of law in the State of New York.