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SCHONEK v. W. J. A. C. (11/11/69)

decided: November 11, 1969.

SCHONEK, APPELLANT,
v.
W. J. A. C., INC.



Appeal from judgment of Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County, March T., 1967, No. 51, in case of Wilbur E. Schonek v. W. J. A. C., Inc.

COUNSEL

Caram J. Abood, with him James A. Ashton, and Ashton & Stitt, and Green, Gibson & Abood, for appellant.

Morton Meyers, with him James E. Mayer, for appellee.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Cohen.

Author: Cohen

[ 436 Pa. Page 79]

This is an appeal from the entry of a judgment in favor of the defendant in an action of trespass for slander. The facts are as follows:

For years, consolidation of the City of Johnstown with surrounding municipalities has been advocated to help Johnstown recover from its economic problems. During the late summer of 1966 a group of interested citizens formed the Improve Johnstown Association (IJA) to promote consolidation and selected the Borough of Westmont as the first objective. They employed William Buckingham as coordinator and promoter, and he prepared a four page plan for consolidation. This was given on September 6, 1966, to Richard Mayer, chairman of IJA and a director of WJAC, Inc. Since Mayer desired to make changes in the plan, Buckingham discarded all copies except two or three which he retained for correction. No copies were distributed to anyone, and after a corrected document was distributed to IJA members on September 9, Buckingham destroyed the remaining copies of the original document.

About a week later, Buckingham prepared a three page document entitled "Targets, Tactics and Time Tables" for distribution to IJA. At a later date, he prepared sixteen separate typewritten documents containing instructions to the various committees which were to work to promote consolidation.

The members of IJA appeared openly and affixed their names to campaign documents and advertisements.

[ 436 Pa. Page 80]

A group called the Truth Committee was formed which opposed consolidation. Its membership was not disclosed, and campaign documents and advertisements appeared without the names of any sponsors.

On November 12, 1966, residents of Westmont received in the mail a document containing nine printed ...


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