No. 839 April Term, 1979, Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Allegheny County at No. GD 79-16254.
John M. Silvestri, Pittsburgh, for appellant.
Joseph D. Talarico, Pittsburgh, for appellee.
Cavanaugh, Hoffman and Van der Voort, JJ.
[ 281 Pa. Super. Page 522]
The plaintiff filed a complaint in trespass alleging inter alia that the defendant had slandered her. The defendant filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer, motion to strike off and motion for a more specific pleading. The lower court sustained the preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer since the complaint did not state the exact words which were allegedly slanderous. It then dismissed the complaint. We reverse and remand.
In the instant case the lower court sustained the defendant's preliminary objections and dismissed the complaint
[ 281 Pa. Super. Page 523]
inter alia because the complaint did not state the exact words which were alleged to be slanderous.*fn1 In an action for slander the complaint is sufficient if it contains the substance of the spoken words. Tipton v. Kahle, 3 Watts 90 (1834); Kennedy v. Lowry, 1 Binn. 393 (1808); Hersh v. Ringwalt, 3 Yeates 508 (1803) (semble); see Lukehart v. Byerly, 53 Pa. 418 (1866); Cooper v. Bruce, 2 Watts 109 (1833). Contra, Yundt v. Yundt, 12 Serg. & Rawl. 427 (1825); see Young v. Geiske, 209 Pa. 515, 58 A. 887 (1904). Although Young v. Geiske, supra, relied upon by appellee states that in a slander action the exact words are necessary, that case involved an action for libel and thus such a statement is mere dictum. Moreover Young fails to cite any Pennsylvania authority for such a proposition. Therefore, the prior cases, cited supra, still control in actions for slander.
In Gross v. United Engineers and Constructors, Inc., 224 Pa. Super. 233, 302 A.2d 370 (1973), we affirmed the lower court's order which sustained defendant's preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer. The complaint for libel and slander in Gross had several deficiencies. Among them were the failure to allege with any particularity the content of oral or written statements claimed to have been made, the identity of the persons making such statements, and the identity of the persons to whom the statements were made. Id., 224 Pa. at 235, 302 A.2d at 371. Since the plaintiff failed to amend his complaint and even refused to supply relevant information when he was deposed, we affirmed the lower court's order sustaining defendant's preliminary objections and dismissing the complaint with prejudice. In Gross, however, we merely required that the actionable words be stated with "particularity," we did not require them to be stated with exactitude.
[ 281 Pa. Super. Page 524]
Although it is preferable that the exact words be stated in the complaint, often the exact words are not known. However, although the exact words need not be stated, the complaint must specify the substance of the ...