of a third party. See Jackson v. Tastykake, Inc., 437 Pa. Super. 34, 648 A.2d 1214 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1994); Wapner v. Somers, 428 Pa. Super. 187, 630 A.2d 885 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1993); McCaskill v. Philadelphia Hous. Auth., 419 Pa. Super. 313, 615 A.2d 382, 384-85 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1992); Steiner v. Bell Telephone Co., 358 Pa. Super. 505, 517 A.2d 1348, 1353 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1986) (citing Sinn v. Burd, 486 Pa. 146, 404 A.2d 672 (Pa. 1979); Quinn v. Pittsburgh, 243 Pa. 521, 90 A. 353 (Pa. 1914)). Accordingly, I shall dismiss this claim.
D. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Defendants assert that because Defendants owed no duty to Plaintiffs with regard to Diane's treatment, Plaintiffs' intentional infliction of emotional distress claim must be dismissed. Defendants' assertion cannot be true. Regardless of whether Defendants owed Plaintiffs any duty of care with respect to Diane's mental health counseling, Defendants had independent duties not to intentionally inflict emotional distress upon Plaintiffs. Because Defendants have not otherwise challenged the sufficiency of this claim, I shall not dismiss it at this time. Cf. Bartanus v. Lis, 332 Pa. Super. 48, 480 A.2d 1178 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1984) (allegations that defendant persuaded plaintiff's son to stay away from plaintiff by repeatedly telling son that plaintiff was unloving, a whoremaster, liar, and con artist, and that plaintiff's house was dirty, poisonous, and rat infested, sufficiently stated claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress).
Plaintiffs allege that during group therapy sessions, Defendants made slanderous statements about Plaintiffs by stating that Diane was the victim of incest and satanic ritual abuse, and that Diane served as Defendants' "mouthpiece" when she later named Plaintiffs as her abusers. Defendants assert that Plaintiffs' defamation claim must be dismissed because the Complaint fails to allege that Defendants published any defamatory communication. I disagree.
To state a claim for defamation, a plaintiff must allege (1) a defamatory communication; (2) pertaining to the plaintiff; (3) published by the defendant to a third party; (4) who understood that the communication pertained to the plaintiff and had a defamatory meaning; and (5) that resulted in plaintiff's injury. See Petula v. Mellody, 138 Pa. Commw. 411, 588 A.2d 103 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1991); 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8343 (1982). Although Plaintiffs have not alleged that Defendants specifically stated that Plaintiffs committed incest and murder, Plaintiffs have alleged that Defendants implanted in Diane false memories of severe childhood abuse, and in this way induced and encouraged Diane to publish Defendants' defamatory statements about her parents. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 577 cmt. f (1977) ("One is liable for publication of defamation by a third person whom as his servant, agent, or otherwise he directs or procures to publish defamatory matter."). Further, Defendants' statements, although not specifically naming Plaintiffs, may sufficiently pertain to Plaintiffs based on the context in which they were made. See Weinstein v. Bullick, 827 F. Supp. 1193, 1199 (E.D. Pa. 1993) (defamed party need not be specifically named in a defamatory statement, however, "if she is pointed to by description or circumstances tending to identify her"). Accordingly, I shall not dismiss the defamation claim at this time.
F. Intentional Misrepresentation
Defendants similarly assert that because Defendants owed no duty to Plaintiffs with regard to Diane's treatment, Plaintiffs' fraud claim must be dismissed. Again, Defendants' assertion is an inadequate basis for dismissal. Because Defendants have not otherwise challenged the sufficiency of this claim, I shall not dismiss it at this time.
H. Punitive Damages
Defendants assert that the Complaint fails to allege conduct sufficiently extreme to warrant punitive damages. I disagree. Because Plaintiffs' "claim" for punitive damages involves factual issues that may not properly be resolved in a motion to dismiss, I shall not dismiss this prayer for relief at this time. Cf. Doe v. Kohn, Nast, & Graf, P.C., 862 F. Supp. 1310, 1329 (E.D. Pa. 1994) (noting that punitive damages "claim" involves factual issues that may not be resolved in a motion for summary judgment).
An appropriate order follows.
AND NOW, this 19th day of July 1995, it is hereby ORDERED that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Document No. 7) is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART AS FOLLOWS:
1. Plaintiffs' negligence claim (Count II) is DISMISSED WITHOUT PREJUDICE;
2. Plaintiffs are granted leave to file an Amended Complaint on or before Friday, August 4, 1995, alleging facts, if any, supporting a negligence claim, as set forth in the accompanying memorandum;
3. Plaintiffs' interference with filial relations claim (Count III) is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE;
4. In all other respects, Defendants' motion is DENIED.
BY THE COURT:
JOHN R. PADOVA, J.