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THOMAS MERTON CENTER v. ROCKWELL INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION (12/17/81)

decided: December 17, 1981.

THE THOMAS MERTON CENTER, A NONPROFIT PENNSYLVANIA CORPORATION, AND THE STOP THE B-1 BOMBER TASK FORCE OF THE THOMAS MERTON CENTER, AN UNINCORPORATED NONPROFIT ASSOCIATION,
v.
ROCKWELL INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, A CORPORATION, AND CROSBY M. KELLY, AN INDIVIDUAL, APPELLANTS. APPEAL OF CROSBY M. KELLY



Nos. 81-1-9, 81-1-10, Appeal from the Order of the Superior Court entered August 8, 1980 at No. 394 April Term, 1979, reversing the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Civil Division, at No. GD 77-03656.

COUNSEL

James D. Morton, Buchanan, Ingersoll, Rodewald, Kyle & Buerger, Pittsburgh, for Crosby M. Kelly.

Joseph A. Katarinci, Thomas R. Johnson, Kirkpatrick, Lockhart, Johnson & Hutchinson, Pittsburgh, for Rockwell Intern. Corp.

Vincent A. Colianni, Parmelee, Miller, Welsh & Kratz, Pittsburgh, for Thomas Merton Center, etc.

O'Brien, C. J., and Roberts, Larsen, Flaherty, Kauffman and Wilkinson, JJ. Nix, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Roberts

[ 497 Pa. Page 462]

OPINION OF THE COURT

Appellant Rockwell International Corporation is the prime contractor for the B-1 bomber project. Appellant Crosby M. Kelly was Vice-President of Communications for Rockwell. They appeal from an order of the Superior Court which reversed an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County dismissing a complaint in libel filed by appellee, the Thomas Merton Center. Appellee is a nonprofit Pennsylvania corporation, some of whose members actively campaigned against the United States government's proposed development of the B-1 bomber.

The trial court granted relief to appellants on the ground that the challenged publication was not defamatory as a matter of law. In reversing, the Superior Court held that the article was capable of carrying a defamatory meaning. Because we agree with the trial court that the statements attributed to appellant are not defamatory as a matter of law, we reverse the order of the Superior Court.

[ 497 Pa. Page 463]

Appellee's complaint alleges that a newspaper article published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on December 12, 1976, "intended to convey, and did convey to the community at large, the impression that members of the Thomas Merton Center . . . were Communist sympathizers, associated with Communists or were in fact Communists and . . . was calculated to, and did, hold [Merton] up to public scorn, hatred, [and] ridicule." Appellants denied these allegations and were granted judgment on the pleadings.

The challenged publication follows in ...


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