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ROBERT B. GRAHAM v. TODAY'S SPIRIT AND FRED CLEMENT (12/08/83)

decided: December 8, 1983.

ROBERT B. GRAHAM, SR., ROBERT D. CULP, APPELLANTS,
v.
TODAY'S SPIRIT AND FRED CLEMENT, APPELLEES



No. 8 E.D. Appeal Docket 1983, Petition for Allowance of Appeal (granted February 2, 1983) from the Order and Opinion dated November 30, 1982 of the Superior Court of Pennsylvania under No. 1739, Philadelphia, 1980 which affirmed the Order and Opinion of the Court of Common Pleas of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on June 30, 1980 under civil No. 79-10581

COUNSEL

Robert D. Culp, I.P.P., Robert B. Graham, I.P.P., for appellants.

Thomas W. Murrell, Philadelphia, Elmer L. Menges, Ambler, for appellees.

Roberts, C.j., and Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDermott, Hutchinson and Zappala, JJ.

Author: Zappala

[ 503 Pa. Page 54]

OPINION

This appeal presents an issue of first impression involving the interpretation of the "Uniform Single Publication Act", the Act of July 9, 1976, P.L. 586 No. 142 § 2, 42 Pa.C.S.A.

[ 503 Pa. Page 55]

§ 8341 (the Act). Specifically, this Court must determine the interpretation of "single publication" under the Act. In its relevant part, the Act states:

"(b) General rule -- No person shall have more than one cause of action for damages for libel or slander, or invasion of privacy, or any other tort founded upon any single publication, or exhibition, or utterance, such as any one edition of a newspaper, or book, or magazine, or any one presentation to an audience, or any one broadcast over radio or television, or any one exhibition of a motion picture. Recovery in any action shall include all damages for any such tort suffered by the plaintiff in all jurisdictions." (Emphasis added)

The facts of this appeal may be summarized as follows.*fn1 On September 15, 1978, Today's Post, a Montgomery County newspaper, printed and circulated an article depicting the Appellants in an allegedly false and defamatory manner. On the same date, Today's Spirit, a Bucks County newspaper, also printed and circulated an article depicting the Appellants in an allegedly false and defamatory manner. Appellee Fred Clement, a reporter for both Today's Post and Today's Spirit, is the author of the subject articles. Although Today's Post and Today's Spirit are both published by the Montgomery Publishing Company, the newspapers apparently have separate circulation staffs, mastheads, and areas of circulation. It is unclear whether both newspapers have separate editorial staffs, but the newspapers have different items of news to report. Furthermore, Today's Spirit has a separate business address and bank account. Finally, although both Today's Spirit and Today's Post are printed by the Montgomery Publishing Company at the same place, different plates are used for each newspaper. The alleged defamatory articles

[ 503 Pa. Page 56]

    which appeared in Today's Post and Today's Spirit were identical except for a few modifications ...


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