Established 1958 ~ Hardball Business Litigation & Complex Negotiations

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.  “[To]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.