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CORABI v. CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY (01/20/70)

decided: January 20, 1970.

CORABI, APPELLANT,
v.
CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY, APPELLANT



Appeals from judgments of Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of Philadelphia, Nos. 487 and 499, and order of Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, No. 529, in case of Lillian Reis Corabi et al. v. Curtis Publishing Company.

COUNSEL

Jerome J. Shestack, with him Tom P. Monteverde, Robert F. Simone, and Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, for plaintiffs.

Harold E. Kohn, with him David H. Marion and Helen H. Stern, for defendant.

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

Author: Eagen

[ 437 Pa. Page 146]

Lillian Reis instituted this suit on her own behalf and on behalf of her two daughters, as parent and guardian, seeking damages in five counts from the defendant, Curtis Publishing Company, for publication of an article in the October 26, 1963 issue of The Saturday Evening Post entitled "They Call Me Tiger Lil." The complaint charged that the said article: (1) constituted unfair competition with Lillian Reis (publication of a false and misleading biography); (2) was defamatory of Lillian Reis; (3) invaded the right of privacy of Lillian Reis; (4) plagiarized from Lillian Reis; and, (5) invaded the privacy of the two daughters of Lillian Reis.

A jury trial resulted in a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs and against the defendant. Damages were awarded as follows on the various claims:

(1) On the claim of Lillian Reis for unfair competition, $25,000 compensatory damages and $75,000 punitive damages;

(2) On the claim for defamation of Lilliam Reis, $250,000 compensatory damages and $500,000 punitive damages;

[ 437 Pa. Page 147]

(3) On the claim for the invasion of the privacy of Lillian Reis, $25,000 compensatory damages and $50,000 punitive damages;

(4) On the claim for the invasion of the privacy of Lillian Reis' daughter, Barbara Corabi, $100,000 compensatory damages and $200,000 punitive damages;

(5) On the claim for the invasion of the privacy of Lillian Reis' daughter, Michael Corabi, $200,000 compensatory damages and $400,000 punitive damages.

Timely motions were filed by the defendant for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or a new trial as to all claims. Subsequently, the court en banc below, after consideration of these motions, filed joint orders in which it entered judgment for the defendant notwithstanding the verdict in the actions involving Lillian Reis' claim for unfair competition and invasion of privacy; upheld the finding of the jury that Lillian Reis was entitled to damages from the defendant for defamation, but ruled that the verdict of the jury was excessive and should be reduced to $100,000 compensatory and $200,000 punitive damages; upheld the finding of the jury that Barbara Corabi was entitled to damages from the defendant for invasion of privacy, but ruled that the verdict was excessive and should be reduced to $15,000 compensatory damages and $25,000 punitive damages; upheld the finding of the jury that Michael Corabi was entitled to damages from the defendant for invasion of privacy, but ruled that the verdict was excessive and should be reduced to $25,000 compensatory damages and $50,000 punitive damages.*fn1

The foregoing "orders" closed with the following:

"Appropriate remittitur in compliance with these reductions of the verdicts shall be filed by the plaintiffs

[ 437 Pa. Page 148]

    within thirty (30) days hereof and in the event of noncompliance, the defendant is granted a new trial."

Subsequently, counsel for the plaintiffs filed with the Prothonotary a document entitled "Acceptance of Remittiturs," which stated in part:

"The undersigned hereby accept the following remittiturs required by the Orders of the Court dated June 24, 1969, without prejudice to whatever rights plaintiffs might have to have the remittiturs reviewed on appeal."*fn2

At the same time, a praecipe signed by plaintiffs' counsel was also filed directing the Prothonotary to enter judgments against the defendant in favor of Lillian Reis in the sum of $300,000; in favor of Barbara Corabi in the sum of $40,000; and, in favor of Michael Corabi in the sum of $75,000, and judgments were entered.

Subsequently, the defendant filed timely appeals from the judgments entered in favor of all plaintiffs. Lillian Reis also filed appeals on her own behalf from the lower court's orders which, inter alia, directed a reduction in the jury's verdict. No appeals were filed on behalf of Barbara Corabi and Michael Corabi. In the appeals filed ...


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