Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Defamation Decision Out of Lackawanna County

In the case of Lilac Meadows, Inc. v. Rivello, No. 2011-Civ-4375 (C.P. Lacka. Co. April 5, 2012 Nealon, J.), Judge Terrence R. Nealon of the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas, offered up a detailed opinion addressing Preliminary Objections filed in a defamation action.

According to the opinion, the Plaintiff, a land development corporation, sued two local residents for slander based upon statements the residents allegedly made regarding the Plaintiff’s land development project during a public council meeting.

One of the residents filed Preliminary Objections in the nature of a demurrer to the slander claim on the grounds that his remarks were not capable of a defamatory meaning. The Court found that this resident’s alleged comments about the corporation’s property and its predecessor-in-interest’s approval process did not constitute slander under an application of Pennsylvania law. As such, the Court granted that resident’s demurrer and dismissed the slander action filed against him.

The other Defendant resident’s Preliminary Objections were denied. That resident’s demurrer’s were based upon the defenses of truth and privilege. Other Preliminary Objections regarding insufficient specificity were also overruled by the Court with regard to that Defendant’s Preliminary Objections.

According to the opinion, the Defendants made statements at a public meeting with regards to how the Plaintiff was moving ahead with a certain project.
In his opinion, Judge Nealon provides a thorough update on the law of defamation and the defenses of privilege and truth in that context. Judge Nealon also addressed the proper types of damages claims that are permitted in a defamation action.
Anyone desiring a copy of Judge Nealon’s opinion in the case of Lilac Meadows, Inc. v. Rivello, may contact me at dancummins@comcast.net.

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