Pleadings & CPLR R. 3016 & Slander per se

CPLR R. 3016 Particularity in specific actions

Pourquoi M.P.S., Inc. v Worldstar Intl., Ltd., 2009 NY Slip Op 05755 (App. Div., 2nd, 2009)

The order appealed from relates to the plaintiff's amended complaint,
and the affirmative defenses set forth in the answer thereto of the
defendant Worldstar International, Ltd. [*2]However, those pleadings are no longer viable as they have been superseded by new pleadings alleging new causes of action
(see Penniman v Fuller & Warren Co., 133 NY 442, 444; Bobash, Inc. v Festinger, 57 AD3d 464, 465; Williams v Feig, 12 AD3d 504, 505; Schoenborn v Kinderhill Corp., 98 AD2d 831, 832; Hawley v Travelers Indem. Co., 90 AD2d 684; Halmar Distribs. v Approved Mfg. Corp., 49 AD2d 841; Millard v Delaware, L. & W. R. Co., 204 App Div 80, 83; Branower & Son v Waldes, 173 App Div 676, 678). Accordingly, the appeal has been rendered academic and must be dismissed (see generally Chalasani v Neuman, 64 NY2d 879, 880; Bobash, Inc. v Festinger, 57 AD3d at 465; DePasquale v Estate of DePasquale, 44 AD3d 606, 607; Stefanopoulos v Action Airport Serv. of L.I., Inc., 35 AD3d 590; Weber v Goss, 18 AD3d 540; Monter v Massachusetts Mut. Life Ins. Co., 12 AD3d 650, 651; Williams v Feig, 12 AD3d at 505; Van Valkenburgh, Nooger & Neville v Rider Publ., 24 AD2d 437, 438).

Epifani v Johnson, 2009 NY Slip Op 05287 (App. Div., 2nd, 2009)

"The elements of a cause of action [to recover damages] for defamation are a false [*5]statement,
published without privilege or authorization to a third party,
constituting fault as judged by, at a minimum, a negligence standard,
and it must either cause special harm or constitute defamation per se'"
(Salvatore v Kumar, 45 AD3d 560, 563, quoting Dillon v City of New York, 261 AD2d 34, 38). The complaint must set forth the particular words allegedly constituting defamation (see CPLR
3016[a]), and it must also allege the time when, place where, and
manner in which the false statement was made, and specify to whom it
was made
(see Dillon v City of New York, 261 AD2d at 38).

"Generally, a plaintiff alleging slander must plead and prove
that he or she has sustained special damages, i.e., the loss of
something having economic or pecuniary value'" (Rufeh v Schwartz, 50 AD3d 1002, 1003, quoting Liberman v Gelstein, 80
NY2d 429, 434-435). "A plaintiff need not prove special damages,
however, if he or she can establish that the alleged defamatory
statement constituted slander per se" (Rufeh v Schwartz, 50 AD3d
at 1003). The four exceptions which constitute "slander per se" are
statements (i) charging plaintiff with a serious crime; (ii) that tend
to injure another in his or her trade, business or profession; (iii)
that plaintiff has a loathsome disease; or (iv) imputing unchastity to
a woman (see Liberman v Gelstein, 80 NY2d at 435). When
statements fall within one of these categories, the law presumes that
damages will result, and they need not be alleged or proven (id.).

Johnson, in addressing the defamation cause of action, appears
to claim, in effect, that her alleged statement to Supple's references
that Supple was "crazy" is the only statement at issue. However, in
addition to this purported statement, Supple alleges that Johnson
stated, to Oliverre and another employee named Marita, that Supple's
employment with her was being terminated because she was stealing.

The complaint alleges that the statement that Supple was
terminated because she was stealing from Johnson was made on or about
June 15, 2005, sets forth the statement allegedly made, and that it was
made to Oliverre and Marita. Accordingly, these allegations satisfied
the pleading requirements of CPLR 3016, inasmuch as it alleged the time
when, place where, and manner in which the false statement was made,
and specified to whom it was made (see generally Dillon v City of New York, 261 AD2d at 38).

With regard to damages, the complaint only alleges that Supple "has
been injured in her good name and reputation, has suffered great pain
and mental anguish, and has otherwise been damaged in all to her damage
[sic] in a sum to be proven at the time of trial according to proof."
This assertion fails to allege special damages with sufficient
particularity. However, if the allegedly defamatory statement qualifies
as slander per se, the failure to plead special damages with
particularity will not be fatal. 

As to the alleged statement that Supple was stealing from Johnson,
this constitutes an allegation of a "serious crime" so as to qualify as
slander per se
(see Liberman v Gelstein, 80 NY2d at 435
[discussing the distinction between serious and nonserious crimes for
qualification as slander per se, and citing the Restatement of Torts, §
571, comment g, which lists crimes actionable as per se slander,
including, inter alia, larceny]). Further, this alleged statement would
clearly constitute one of fact rather than the privileged expression of
an opinion (see Mann v Abel, 10 NY3d 271,
276 [expressions of opinion, as opposed to assertions of fact, are
deemed privileged and, no matter how offensive, cannot be the subject
of an action to recover damages for defamation]).

With regard to Johnson's alleged statement describing Supple as
"crazy," the complaint only alleges that the defamation occurred when
Johnson made this remark generally to Supple's "references," and thus
failed to identify, with necessary specifity, the person or persons to
whom the statements were made (see Dillon v City of New York, 261
AD2d at 38), resulting in an insufficiently pleaded cause of action.
Moreover, Johnson's remark to Oliverre allegedly characterizing Supple
as "crazy" does not appear to be a defamatory statement concerning
Supple; Johnson did not tell Oliverre that she believed that Supple was
"crazy," but only that she telephoned Supple's references and told them
that Supple was "crazy." To the extent that the Court may infer that
the substance of the statement was Johnson's assertion that Supple was
"crazy," this would appear to be a hyperbolic expression of opinion
and, thus, nonactionable
(see generally Mann v Abel, 10 NY3d at 276).

Since, however, Johnson's alleged statement that Supple's
employment was being terminated because Supple was stealing was
sufficiently pleaded, and constituted slander per se, the Supreme Court
properly denied that branch of Johnson's motion which was to dismiss so
much of the eighth cause of action as was premised on this allegedly
defamatory statement.

The bold is mine.

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