Defamation: Brief Overview

Defamation
is the tort of detracting from a person’s reputation, or injuring a person’s
character, fame, or reputation, by false and malicious statements.  Joseph v. Scranton Times L.P., 959 A.2d 322
(Pa.Super. 2008).  “A publication is
defamatory if it tends to blacken a person’s reputation or expose him to public
hatred, contempt, or ridicule, or injure him in his business or
profession.”  Id. at 334.  “[T]o be actionable, the words must be
untrue, unjustifiable, and injurious to the reputation of another.  When communications tend to lower a person in
the estimation of the community, deter third persons from associating with him,
or adversely affect his fitness for the proper conduct of his lawful business
or profession, they are deemed defamatory.” 
Id. 

Under Pennsylvania law, a claim
for defamation must allege: (1) the defamatory character of the communication;
(2) publication; (3) that the communication refers to the complaining party;
(4) the third party’s understanding of the communication’s defamatory
character; and (5) injury.  42 Pa.C.S.A.
Section 8343(a).  In most cases, a
plaintiff must also allege special harm resulting to the plaintiff from the
publication of the defamatory content.  Id.  “A complaint for defamation must allege with
particularity the content of the defamatory statements, the identity of the
persons making such statements, and the identity of the persons to whom the
statements were made.”  Itri v. Lewis, 422 A.2d 591, 592 (Pa.Super. 1980).

If you think you might have an action for
defamation, please contact the experienced lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus &
Green in Philadelphia, who are licensed to
practice law in all courts in Pennsylvania and
New Jersey.

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