Attorneys obtained a dismissal on the pleadings of plaintiff's complaint wherein it was alleged that plaintiff was defamed arising out of statements made by defendants to the Police Chief of his hometown and the Municipal Solicitor
Attorneys obtained a dismissal on the pleadings of plaintiff's complaint wherein it was alleged that plaintiff was defamed arising out of statements made by defendants to the Police Chief of his hometown and the Municipal Solicitor. The court agreed with our argument that the publication was protected by the Qualified Privilege thus changing the burden of proof required by plaintiff to establish defamation. With a defense of Qualified Privilege, the plaintiff would need to show actual malice in the publishing of such statements. Actual malice requires that the person making the statement have knowledge that the statement is untruthful and this must be established by clear and convincing evidence. The court stated it was established that the defendants genuinely believed, and still believe, that plaintiff was the person identified in various menacing emails to the defendants evidencing trespass to property and erroneously identifying himself as a councilperson. The court reasoned that if the defendants reasonably and legitimately believed that plaintiff was the author of the emails then there could be no actual malice provable in the defendant's decision to send a letter to the police and Municipal Solicitor. Absent a finding of actual malice, the court stated that plaintiff cannot defeat the qualified privilege and the complaint must fail. The court converted the motion to dismiss on the pleadings to a motion for summary judgment, which the court states in effect grants the motion to dismiss, and therefore dismissed without prejudice.