Thus, they are not actionable per se. See 22 Pennsylvania Law Encyclopedia, Libel and Slander, § 13, and the cases cited therein.
Furthermore, these are not words tending to injure plaintiff in her profession or business, because there is no indication that the accusations touched on plaintiff's ability or integrity as regards her profession, teaching. Statements that impute fraud or want of integrity in one's business, profession or other occupation are ordinarily actionable per se. But, when words claimed to charge fraud or dishonesty in respect to a plaintiff's occupation do not on their face constitute such a charge, they are not actionable per se. See 22 Pennsylvania Law Encyclopedia, Libel and Slander, § 14, and cases cited therein.
Plaintiff has stated in her complaint that the allegations of fraud will harm her "when she attempts to return" to her profession as a school teacher. This is a general and conclusory allegation of possible or anticipated professional injury; it is not a factual allegation of a clear and certain injury. Prior cases demonstrate this point. Thus, when a wholesale produce dealer reported a debt which plaintiff did not owe to the Philadelphia Produce, Credit and Collection Bureau and plaintiff was placed on a "black list" and could not purchase on credit, such a statement was actionable per se. Hartman Co. v. Hyman, 87 Pa. Super. 358 (1926), affirmed, J. Hartman & Co. v. Hyman & Lieberman, 287 Pa. 78, 134 A. 486 (1926). Calling an attorney a cheat is actionable per se, Rush v. Cavenaugh, 2 Pa. 187 (1845) as is accusing a merchant of using false weights and measures in his business, Pfeifly v. Henry, 269 Pa. 533, 112 A. 768 (1921), or of other deceptive business techniques such as dishonest pricing and deliberate use of inferior materials and practices, Cosgrove Studio & Camera Shop v. Pane, 408 Pa. 314, 182 A. 2d 751 (1962). Imputing cowardice to a detective is actionable per se, Holland v. Flick, 212 Pa. 201, 61 A. 828 (1905), as is an allegation of illegal behavior by a police chief, Bausewine v. Norristown Herald, 351 Pa. 634, 41 A. 2d 736 (1945), cert. denied, Norristown Herald v. Bausewine, 326 U.S. 724, 90 L. Ed. 429, 66 S. Ct. 29 (1945), or a doctor (performance of illegal abortion), Bryant v. Pittsburg Times, 192 Pa. 585, 44 A. 251 (1899). Alleging that a teacher of shorthand was not qualified to teach the system of shorthand she taught and that she was using the name of the system's author without authorization was held actionable per se. Price v. Conway, 134 Pa. 340, 19 A. 687 (1890).
The thrust of these cases is clear; that an action for libel or slander grounded on the allegation that plaintiff has been injured in his occupation requires some accusation or insinuation that plaintiff is unfit for that occupation. In this case, no such allegation exists; there is only the general imputation that plaintiff is guilty of a summary offense having no direct contact with her profession and the statement that this will handicap her when she returns or attempts to return to work. Therefore, we find that these allegedly defamatory statements are not actionable per se on the grounds that plaintiff has been injured in her occupation.
Finding no allegation of defamation actionable per se, we note that plaintiff, to recover for defamation actionable per quod must plead special damages. See McDonald v. Lee, 246 Pa. 253, 92 A. 135 (1914). No special damages have been pleaded in this case. Therefore, the complaint to the extent that it asserts an action in defamation will also be dismissed.
Defendant also moves to dismiss on the grounds that the Court does not have subject-matter jurisdiction because the amount in controversy is less than $10,000.00. In actions sounding in tort that allege injuries of a general nature and pray for unliquidated damages, determination of the good faith as to allegation of the jurisdictional amount is particularly difficult. Because we have determined that the complaint is to be dismissed for failure to state a cause of action, we need not and do not reach this additional issue. Thus, we obviate the need for a hearing at this time as was required and utilized in Nelson v. Keefer, 451 F.2d 289 (3d Cir. 1971).
AND NOW, this 22nd day of March, 1978, IT IS ORDERED that defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted is GRANTED.
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