Appeal From Judgment Entered October 2, 1987, Court of Common Pleas, Civil Division, Venango County, No. A.D. No. 9 of 1987
Wayne H. Hundertmark, Erie, for appellants.
Kemp C. Scales, Titusville, for appellee.
Cavanaugh, Johnson and Hoffman, JJ.
[ 379 Pa. Super. Page 315]
The issue in this case is whether the court below erred in granting a motion for summary judgment in favor of the defendant, Pennbank, the appellee herein. The plaintiffs below are the appellants in this court.
The basic facts are not in dispute. In March, 1986, Thomas B. McCain, one of the appellants, applied to Pennbank for refinancing on his home mortgage. The original mortgage had been granted by Pennbank. Mr. McCain completed an application form and was told by the branch manager that he foresaw no problem in obtaining refinancing in the amount of $21,000.00. Copies of the appellants' income tax returns did not accompany the application for refinancing and the tax returns were forwarded to the bank at a later date. The application was sent to the main office of Pennbank in Erie, Pennsylvania, which determined that
[ 379 Pa. Super. Page 316]
the McCains did not have the necessary income to qualify for refinancing on the secondary mortgage market.*fn1 The bank was willing to make an exception and to refinance the mortgage if Mr. McCain had a deposit account with the bank. At one time, Mr. McCain, who was in the auto body and glass business, kept his business accounts with Pennbank, but he transferred the account to the Exchange Bank in Franklin, Pennsylvania, in February, 1984 after he had a dispute with one of Pennbank's employees.
On May 2, 1986, Mr. Stoops advised Mr. McCain that the bank would not refinance his mortgage because he did not have a business account at the bank and his income was insufficient.*fn2 He asked Mr. McCain to transfer his business account back to Pennbank, but he refused. On May 12, 1986, Pennbank wrote to Mr. and Mrs. McCain and advised them "that your recent credit application cannot be granted at this time and has been declined."
Subsequently, Pennbank extended a line of credit to the appellants who have made use of the credit line.
In January, 1987, the appellants commenced a civil action against Pennbank setting forth two counts. Count I alleged defamation by the bank "by publishing in a written report or circular, the knowingly false and defamatory
[ 379 Pa. Super. Page 317]
matter that plaintiffs had insufficient money and a poor credit rating with defendant bank."*fn3 Count II alleged inter alia that the defendant:
had attempted to extort or otherwise blackmail additional business transactions with Plaintiffs by requiring Plaintiffs to bring their business accounts into said Defendant Bank for the purpose of obtaining money thereby.
15. By said attempts of extortion or blackmail, Defendant Bank has caused injury to Plaintiffs' good name, reputation and credit by reporting a poor credit rating, financial difficulty or ...