Defamatory Statement

statue-of-liberty serious charges

Elements of a Claim


A communication is defamatory of another’s good name “if it ‘tends so to harm the reputation of [the other] as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him.’ Procedurally, it is the function of the court in the first instance to determine whether the communication complained of is capable of a defamatory meaning. The test is the effect the statement would fairly produce, or the impression it would naturally engender, ‘in the minds of the average persons among whom it is intended to circulate.'” Rybas v. Wapner, supra, 311 Pa.Super. at 54-55, 457 A.2d at 110, quoting Corabi v. Curtis Publishing Co., 441 Pa. 432, 441 & 447, 273 A.2d 899, 904 & 907 (1971).

The meaning of an allegedly defamatory communication must be ascertained by reading the communication as a whole and in context. Agriss v. Roadway Express, Inc., 334 Pa.Super. 295, 305, 483 A.2d 456, 461 (1984); Dunlap v. Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc., 301 Pa.Super. 475, 482 n. 3, 448 A.2d 6, 10 n. 3 (1982). See also: Wilson v. Benjamin, 332 Pa.Super. 211, 223, 481 A.2d 328, 334 (1984) (Wieand, J., dissenting). According to the Superior Court, its meaning is “that which the recipient correctly, or mistakenly but reasonably, understands that it was intended to express.” Laniecki v. Polish Army Veterans Association, 331 Pa.Super. 413, 430, 480 A.2d 1101, 1109 (1984), quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts § 563 (1977). See generally: Rutt v. Bethlehems’ Globe Publishing Co., 335 Pa.Super. 163, 484 A.2d 72,” Raffensberger v. Moran, 336 Pa. Super. 97 (1984).

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