cause of action encompass the years 1974-75, and the latest date regarding books and shelving alleged by Avins is January, 1978, when he was "definitely told that [he] would have no jurisdiction over duplicates." As to the seventh cause of action, Avins alleges that "in August, 1978, upon being billed by the Library of Congress, [Avins] discovered [that his books had been incorporated into the DLS library]." Complaint, para. 24. However, this claim arose in 1974-75, when the books were actually delivered and placed into the DLS collection. Avins was certainly in a position to know when and whether books which he ordered from the Library of Congress were delivered to and incorporated in the library of DLS. Moreover, the applicable Delaware case law makes clear that "ignorance of facts" will not ordinarily toll the statute of limitations. Freedman v. Beneficial Corporation, 406 F. Supp. 917 (D. Del. 1975). Avins has made no allegation of fraudulent concealment by defendants.
I further find that the sixth cause of action is barred as to Widener because it relates to breaches of the same contract which were alleged or could have been alleged in Avins v. Widener College, Inc., C.A. No. 76-222 (D.Del. filed July 8, 1976). The jury response to special interrogatory one in that case found that Widener did not assume any of DLS' obligations to plaintiff. Furthermore, the jury specifically found, in answer to special interrogatory two, that agents of Widener were not liable on claims of interference with any contractual benefit or advantageous relationship between plaintiff and DLS. This specific issue having been tried and decided, collateral estoppel bars its relitigation against all defendants.
5. Eighth and Ninth Causes of Action
The eighth cause of action alleges that defendants breached a September 8, 1974, contract with plaintiff by refusing to grant him a sabbatical leave in the fall of 1977. The ninth cause of action claims that plaintiff was entitled by contract to the highest salary paid to any faculty member at DLS, and that he was not paid that amount. The contract to which Avins refers is apparently a September 8, 1974, resolution of the DLS Board of Trustees.
As previously discussed, plaintiff shows no proof that he was entitled to a sabbatical leave. See supra at 18. Neither Widener nor DLS have a policy of automatic sabbatical leaves for faculty members. In fact, the September 8, 1974, resolution does not refer, in any way, to sabbatical leave. I also note that the jury verdict in Avins v. Widener College, Inc., No. 76-222 (D. Del. filed July 8, 1976) determined that Widener did not assume any obligations to plaintiff that may have been owed to Avins by DLS. See supra at 25.
Moreover, Avins' claims are barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. Avins alleges that he was denied a sabbatical leave for the fall semester, 1977. Once again, whether this claim arises under the one-year Delaware statute, 10 Del. C. § 8111, or the three-year Delaware statute, 10 Del. C. § 8106, it is time-barred. Likewise, the ninth cause of action -- the salary claim -- is subject to the one-year Delaware statute of limitations for Work, Labor or Personal Services, 10 Del. C. § 8111. As Avins complaint was filed on March 31, 1981, his salary claim is also time-barred. See Sorensen v. Overland Corporation, 242 F.2d 70 (3d Cir. 1957); Mitchell v. E.I. duPont deNeouurs & Co., 310 A.2d 641 (Del. 1973); State ex rel. Carpenter v. Boyce, 46 Del. 169, 81 A.2d 294 (1951); Department of Labor ex rel. Commons v. Green Giant Co., 394 A.2d 753 (Del. Super. Ct. 1978).
6. Tenth Cause of Action
The tenth cause of action alleges plaintiff's discharge on April 20, 1978, as a faculty member of DLS, and claims that plaintiff was entitled to a year's salary, as severance pay, for the year following his discharge. The cause of action also makes reference to his dismissal due to a "spurious academic proceeding."
Complaint, para. 28. The grounds for what Avins apparently believes was his improper dismissal was his alleged lifetime contract with DLS.
I note at first that the jury in Avins v. Widener College, Inc., C.A. No. 76-222 (D. Del. filed July 8, 1976), concluded that Widener had assumed no contractual obligations that DLS may have owed to Avins. Both Widener and the individual defendants may claim the res judicata effect of the verdict in Avins v. Widener. Moreover, the claims set forth in the tenth cause of action are employment-related, and are therefore barred by the applicable statute of limitations. 10 Del. C. § 8111.
7. Eleventh and Twelfth Causes of Action
These claims allege libel and defamation of plaintiff by Weeks. The first defamatory incident, Avins asserts, was a telephone interview given by Weeks to the ABA Journal in December of 1978. The interview was conducted in response to a letter written by Avins to the ABA Journal, which Avins sent on DLS letterhead. In the course of the interview, Weeks told the Journal that "as far as [Weeks was] concerned, [Avins was] nothing [at DLS]." Avins second defamation claim, the twelfth cause of action, alleges that certain statements made by Weeks in a letter to Dean Gordon Gee, Chairman of the ABA inspection team for DLS on April 6, 1978, were libelous. Because I have determined that Avins has not stated a cause of action for defamation, judgment will be entered in favor of Weeks as to the eleventh and twelfth causes of action.
The statements made by Weeks in the telephone interview were clearly his personal opinion. Publication of a personal opinion does not give rise to a defamation claim. Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 339, 41 L. Ed. 2d 789, 94 S. Ct. 2997 (1974); Avins v. White, 627 F.2d 637, 642 (3d Cir. 1980). The use of general criticism and loosely defined terms likewise are insufficient to state a defamation claim. Buckley v. Littell, 539 F.2d 882 (2d Cir. 1978), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1062, 97 S. Ct. 785, 50 L. Ed. 2d 777 (1977); Avins v. White, 627 F.2d at 642.
Weeks' remark that Avins was "nothing" at DLS, taken as a rebuttal to Avins' statements regarding DLS, is at most a general statement of criticism. Alternatively, even if taken in another context and viewed as a factual statement, the Weeks comment is not actionable. At the time Weeks made the alleged remarks those statements were in fact true, because Avins had no relationship with DLS. Avins had been dismissed from the DLS faculty in April of 1978. He ceased to be a DLS trustee in August of 1978. Accordingly, at the date of the December 1978 publication he was not connected with DLS in any capacity, nor does he so contend. In fact, at the time the ABA Journal article was published, Avins was operating the District of Columbia Law School in Washington, D.C.
As to the twelfth cause of action, I have also concluded that the April 6, 1978, Weeks letter to the ABA Inspection Team did not defame Avins. That letter was written by Weeks in response to the request of the Inspection Team, which request was caused by an earlier letter from Avins to the Team. Weeks letter does not constitute libel because it was not an unauthorized publication. Avins instigated the letter himself when he complained to Gordon Gee that DLS was acting in violation of ABA regulations. Avins knew that Weeks was asked for a response to Avins' charges, and thus, may be deemed to have consented to the publication by Weeks. Cf. Ginsburg v. Black, 237 F.2d 790 (7th Cir. 1956), cert. denied, 353 U.S. 911, 1 L. Ed. 2d 665, 77 S. Ct. 669 (1957).
Moreover, Weeks letter is non-actionable as defamation based upon the common law privilege reflected in the Restatement (Second) of Torts § 596 (1977):
An occasion makes a publication conditionally privileged if the circumstances lead any one of several persons having a common interest in a particular subject matter correctly or reasonably to believe that there is information that another sharing the common interest is entitled to know.