No. 3273 Philadelphia 1982, Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Montgomery County, No. 82-08586.
Dennis L. O'Connell, Gilbertsville, for appellant.
Donald B. Pritchard, Jr., Norristown, for Lehigh County, appellee.
Malcolm J. Gross, Allentown, for Faye, appellee.
Rowley, Popovich and Montgomery, JJ.
[ 333 Pa. Super. Page 248]
Plaintiff-appellant, Marlin Zartman, appeals from an order sustaining defendants-appellees' preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer and dismissing his complaint. For the reasons stated herein, we reverse the order and remand for further proceedings.
On June 1, 1982, appellant, the owner and operator of the Gilbertsville Sales Stables Livestock Auction at Zern's Market in Montgomery County, filed a complaint in trespass against the Lehigh County Humane Society (Society), Jane Schramm, Mary Ann Faye and John Kauffeld. Comprised of seven counts, the complaint averred that the defendants had defamed Zartman, invaded his privacy, intentionally and maliciously interfered in his business relationships, and
[ 333 Pa. Super. Page 249]
unlawfully conspired to further these objectives. These allegations stemmed from two newspaper articles, "Where an animal's fate is determined by the highest bid,"*fn1 published on February 24, 1982, in The Morning Call, an Allentown daily newspaper, and "A Life Devoted to Saving Dogs and Cats," printed in the April 25, 1982, edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Defendant Kauffeld filed an answer which contained new matter. Thus, appellant's action against Kauffeld was not part of the order here on appeal. In addition, appellant has abandoned his conspiracy claim on appeal. We are not therefore concerned with the Inquirer article which is relevant only to the conspiracy claim and to the claim against Kauffeld.
The remaining defendants filed preliminary objections, including several which were in the nature of a demurrer, asserting that those portions of the Morning Call article characterized by appellant as libelous were incapable of a defamatory meaning.*fn2 The Honorable Richard S. Lowe agreed, sustained the preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer, and dismissed the complaint as to the Society, Schramm and Faye. This appeal followed.
Adjudication of a defamation action in Pennsylvania involves, initially, consideration of § 8343(a) of the Judicial Code, 42 Pa.C.S. § 8343:
(a) Burden of plaintiff. -- In an action for defamation, the plaintiff has the burden of proving, when the issue is properly raised:
(1) The defamatory character of the communication.
(2) Its publication by the defendant.
(3) Its application to the ...