MATTHEW MEYERS AND EMILY MEYERS, INVESTMENT GRADE BOOKS, LLC Appellant
CERTIFIED GUARANTY COMPANY, LLC, CLASSIC COLLECTIBLE SERVICES, LLC, MATTHEW A. NELSON, AND HERITAGE AUCTIONEERS & GALLERIES, INC.
from the Order Dated January 22, 2019 In the Court of Common
Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division at No(s): Dec.
Term, 2016 No. 01182.
BEFORE: MURRAY, J., STRASSBURGER, J. [*] , and
PELLEGRINI, J. [*]
Appellants, Matthew Meyers and Emily Meyers (the Meyers)
appeal the order of summary judgment entered in the
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas as to their claims
of defamation and false light against the Appellees,
Certified Guaranty Company, LLC (CGC), Classic Collectible
Services, LLC (CCS), Matthew A. Nelson (Nelson) and Heritage
Auctioneer & Galleries, Inc. (Heritage). The Meyers
contend that because there existed questions of material fact
that should have gone to the jury, the trial court erred in
ruling that those claims were not actionable. Based on the
facts outlined in the parties' respective motions and
responses, the order of summary judgment must be reversed as
to the defamation and false light claims but affirmed in all
Meyers began restoring comic books professionally in 2013. As
they gained experience, they learned the tools of the trade,
such as color touch, piece replacement, tear seals, cleaning
or replacing staples, re-glossing and cover cleaning. By
skillfully applying those methods, a restorative artist can
breathe new life into an aged and worn comic book,
substantially increasing its market value. Comic books sold
at auction are typically graded on a "1 to 10"
scale for overall condition, an "A to C" scale for
the quality of restoration, and a "1 to 5" scale
for the quantity of restoration work.
an entity which grades and certifies comic books for
valuation purposes. CCS is an entity that restores comic
books and it is owned by CGC. At the relevant times, Nelson
had dual roles as both a grader for CGC and the president of
CCS. In his capacity as a grader, he evaluated much of the
Meyers' work. He also corresponded with the Meyers
beginning in 2014, advising them on how to avoid the use of
irreversible restoration techniques that would decrease a
comic book's auction value, such as "trimming"
the outer dimensions of pages and applying too much
"color touch" to artwork.
undisputed that Nelson appreciated the Meyers' talent and
sought to hone their ability. In fact, in 2014 alone, the
Meyers had received the highest possible rating from CGC on
seven comics they had submitted for evaluation. The next
year, in January 2015, the Meyers met with Nelson at his
office in Florida. Nelson reviewed a number of their restored
comic books and gave them additional advice about which
processes to use or avoid.
meeting, Nelson complimented a restored "Batman #1"
as the best he had ever seen. Nelson also offered to
"press" the Meyers' restored copy of
"Amazing Fantasy #15" in order to remove a warp in
the spine and thereby achieve an almost perfect grade from
CGC. The Meyers followed Nelson's advice and were
grateful to be mentored by a respected authority on comic
Meyers continued receiving generally high gradings from CGC
well into 2015, having followed many of Nelson's
suggestions. Nelson confirmed as much in April 2015, emailing
them that a recent submission had earned a very high grading.
CGC awarded the Meyers the highest known grading in May 2015
for restored editions of two other comic books.
2015, the Meyers received two low gradings by CGC as to
another "Batman #1" and an "Action Comics
#7." The Meyers acknowledged that unusual circumstances
during the restoration had caused a "stiffer" and
"thicker" cover than usual on the Action Comics #7.
Tape applied by a previous owner of the Batman #1 could not
safely be removed, increasing its weight. Because of the
disagreements between Meyers and Nelson on CGC's grading
policies, the Meyers began having their work graded by a
competitor of CGC called Comic Book Certification Service
falling out between Nelson and the Meyers then took a public
turn. On the Collector's Society forum, an online message
board, a debate emerged among posters as to why CGC had
decided to stop accepting the Meyers' work. CGC owns and
operates the forum and Nelson moderated it as an
December 2015 message board thread, numerous posters
questioned whether the Meyers were doing
"re-creation" rather than "restoration"
of original work. See Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment, Exhibit "K.". Posters also
remarked that CGC had decided to stop accepting work from the
Meyers because they were destroying comic books rather than
restoring them. See id. ("From what I'm
hearing it seems CGC won't grade these books because they
are more 're-creations' than
bears emphasizing here that within the industry, a comic
book's value becomes greatly diminished once any
component is substituted or removed, such as
"trimming" off the damaged edges of a page or
"reprinting" covers with a Xeroxed copy. Such
practices both mar the quality of the original comic book and
mislead collectors about how much of the original work
remains. "Re-creation" is often synonymous with
"fake" or "counterfeit."
Meyers addressed those concerns in posts to the thread dated
December 30, 2015, explaining some of their restoration
methods on certain projects and the reasons they stopped
submitting their work to CGC. Id.They denied that
any of their work was "fake" or photocopied and
claimed that they had stopped submitting work to CGC because
they did not want their "proprietary techniques in the
hands of CCS - the industry leader and [their] direct
same day, Nelson responded on the message board with a post
that is now at issue:
Up to the point we stopped receiving submissions there were
issues with the work, reflected in our assigning either a B
or C classification. A decision was going to be made whether
to stop taking books that exhibited questionable work, but
submissions ceased . . . The point of professional
restoration is to return a book back to as close to its
original state as possible using reversible materials. When
work becomes so extensive that it becomes hard to tell what
is real and what is re-created, it is impossible to
accurately and fairly represent a grade to the market.
Id. (Emphasis added).
post, in turn, generated dozens of lengthy responses on the
thread by third parties, many of which cast the Meyers in a
At this point there is still a bit of a credibility gap
between what [the Meyers have] said and what Matt Nelson just
[The Meyers] said that they didn't go to CGC because Matt
is under their umbrella and they didn't want CCS
appropriating their restorative techniques.
But [Nelson] just confirmed that CGC essentially determined
the books were ungradable and showing restoration techniques
that were questionable.
Evidently [CBCS] has no such qualms and will grade anything
for the business and that's why these books are in [CBCS
doubts sown in such posts prompted Nelson to respond again,
to clarify "misconceptions" on the thread that
could "potentially [affect] the health of the restored
market in the future[.]" Id. On January 3,
2016, he then made the following statements, which like the
earlier post, are also alleged to be defamatory:
There are two particular aspects I hope to have been
resolved. They were present on the books we graded (hence the
B and C notations we gave) which were subsequently cross
graded by CBCS, who gave them professional designations and
usually a higher grade. One was the large amount of color
touch being applied to the covers, and the other was the
material used as a glossing agent over that color touch.
I believe [the Meyers] used a product called Golden Gel,
which is irreversible[.] To achieve all of these 9.6's
and 9.8's (according to CBCS), either these flaws must be
masked with a glossing agent, or only very high grade copies
are chosen for restoration. Based on the information
I've seen, I don't believe that you are restoring
books that were previously unrestored high grade copies. And
I don't think there are enough 'perfect'
candidates out there to produce the large number of ultra
high grade books that have entered the market in only the
past few months.
Id. (Emphasis added). Nelson concluded by
complimenting the Meyers' talent and remarking that after
the "considerable strides" they had made, "a
couple of the books turned out really great by [CGC's
addition to his public posts on CGC's message board,
Nelson made a number of verbal statements about the Meyers to