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S. ALFREDA WEBSTER v. TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION LOCAL 234 AND ROGER TAUSS (06/26/87)

filed: June 26, 1987.

S. ALFREDA WEBSTER, APPELLANT,
v.
TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION LOCAL 234 AND ROGER TAUSS



Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, of Philadelphia County at No. 297 July Term, 1984.

COUNSEL

Daniel D. Radich, Philadelphia, for appellant.

Joseph Venditti, Taylor, for appellees.

Popovich, Johnson and Hester, JJ.

Author: Popovich

[ 364 Pa. Super. Page 249]

This is an appeal of an order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County denying reconsideration of an order entering a judgment of non pros against the appellant, S. Alfreda Webster. We quash.

The record indicates that on the 5th of July, 1984, the appellant instituted a two-count complaint claiming that, upon her voluntary leave of employment as Southeastern Transportation Authority's (SEPTA) physician, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and Roger Tauss published a newsletter distributed to some 5,000 employees of SEPTA containing a paragraph entitled "Witch Doctor Retires".

The appellant contended in her complaint that the article was libelous and depicted her as an "uncivilized, uneducated and superstitious . . . black woman" who was "forced" from her job at SEPTA and "covered her pitiful lack of knowledge of medicine by harassing and firing [the] members [of TWU]." (Paragraphs 9, 13 & 16)

Further, the appellant asserted that the article was defamatory and false and demanded compensatory and punitive damages to right the wrong allegedly committed upon her person.

In response, the defendants (Tauss and TWU) filed an answer denying, in relevant part, the allegations pleaded in the complaint, and in new matter they claimed the publication was privileged communication protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

On September 24, 1985, counsel for the defendants filed a motion to compel answers to interrogatories and production of the appellant's employment records.

[ 364 Pa. Super. Page 250]

The appellant neither signed nor verified the answers she gave, and interrogatories 68, 70 and 71 were answered incompletely and/or objected to. A release to secure the appellant's employment records was not signed, and the appellant's statement, through her counsel, that she would secure the records and forward them to the defendants never occurred. Thus, the need for the discovery motion followed on the heels of a letter and phone call ...


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