Disparagement of Title

Trade Disparagement

statue-of-liberty serious charges

FALSE AND MALICIOUS REPRESENTATION OF TITLE

The case law supports an action for the false and malicious representation of the title or quality of another’s interest in goods or property. Triester v. 191 Tenants Association, 272 Pa.Super. 271, 277, 415 A.2d 698, 701 (1979). In order to prevail in an action for slander of title, a plaintiff must show malice by the defendant. Malice may be understood as the lack of good faith belief in the right to publish the allegedly slanderous utterance. Id. at 233. A person is conditionally privileged to disparage another’s property in land, chattels or intangible things by an assertion of an inconsistent legally protected interest in himself. See Restatement, Second, Torts § 647 (1977). Comment (b) to section 650A of the Restatement explains the meaning of “malice” required for a finding of an abuse of that conditional privilege. That comment states:

The exception stated in § 647 deals with the conditional privilege of a rival claimant to disparage another’s property by an honest assertion of his own claim, even though he has no reasonable ground for believing his claim to be valid. Since the privilege itself extends to an action based upon a reasonable belief, it is not abused when the publication is made without reasonable grounds for belief in its truth, but is abused only when the claimant does not believe honestly or in good faith believe that there is a substantial chance of his claim being sustained, see Forman v. Cheltenham Nat’l Bank, 348 Pa. Super. 559 (1981).

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