No. 291 April Term, 1979, No. 331 April Term, 1979, Appeal from the order and Judgment of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division, No. 3327 January 1975.
Norman J. Cowie, Pittsburgh, for Consolidated Freightways and Paul M. Ray, appellants.
Stanley M. Stein, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Price, Hester and Cavanaugh, JJ.
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 498]
This is an appeal from an Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County denying appellant's motions for a new trial and for judgment N.O.V.
Appellee initiated this action in trespass for slander on December 17, 1974. Named as defendants were two individuals (only one of whom is an appellant) and a corporation.
The circumstances underlying the suit are as follows: In March of 1974 appellee was hired by appellant Freightways, Inc. as a night dock foreman. His duties included the supervision of the loading and unloading of trucks at Freightways' Harmarville Terminal. Under his supervision were approximately 13 workmen. His immediate supervisor was senior foreman Tom Placenik. Appellee spent about one-fourth of his work time supervising actual yard work and the remainder in the office, doing paperwork.
Early on the morning of September 27, 1974, while appellee was in the office, a driver, Frank Mann, came in and stated that the terminal had been "ripped off". Appellee immediately went to the dock and then out to the yard but found nothing unusual. Appellee then called the F.B.I., however he did not inform either Paul Ray, the terminal manager, or Dennis Casarcia, the night manager.
Within a week investigators solved the case and it was revealed that Tom Placenik and several other employees were involved in a conspiracy to steal goods from the terminal. Placenik and the others were found guilty and sentenced. It was also brought out that concealment of these illicit activities was accomplished by assigning appellee to the office during the times the thefts were carried out. Placenik testified that he specifically assigned appellee to the office to keep him out of the way.
Just prior to the arrests of the thieves, appellee was called to an office by investigators and appellant Ray. They questioned appellee about the thefts and he denied any involvement (which subsequently proved to be the case). However, he was presented with the option of resigning or
[ 280 Pa. Super. Page 499]
being discharged. He resigned, and at the same time, those involved in the thefts were discharged.
Testimony from other workers in the plant indicated that appellant Ray had told them that appellee was discharged because of the thefts and his silence in the face of knowledge of them.
Donald Mulligan, an employee of Freightways, testified that appellant Ray told the men of ...