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Police Defamation Case Properly Venued in Philadelphia

September 15, 2017

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<p style="text-align: justify;">In <em><a href="http://caselaw.findlaw.com/pa-commonwealth-court/1867762.html">Reed v. Brown</a>, </em>the plaintiff, the Deputy Chief of Police, resigned from the Colwyn Borough (PA) police department during an open meeting before borough council and  later applied for a job with the City of Philadelphia. The plaintiff was offered a job, provided that he pass a background check. So when the City of Philadelphia was told by the Colwyn borough police manager that the plaintiff was fired for misconduct, the City of Philadelphia rescinded the job offer.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">The plaintiff sued the borough and police manager for defamation in Philadelphia County, and the defendants moved for transfer of venue. The Court of Common Pleas transferred the case to Delaware County, finding that the cause of action occurred in Delaware County (where the police manger was when he made the alleged defamatory statement), and the plaintiff appealed.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">On appeal, the plaintiff argued that venue was proper in Philadelphia because the trial court failed to give proper weight to his choice of forum and that the cause of action occurred in Philadelphia. Defendants, on the other hand, argued that the allegedly defamatory statements were made in a phone call that did not occur in Philadelphia and that the statements were not "published" in Philadelphia.</p>
<p style="text-align: justify;">In considering these arguments, the Superior Court noted that the plaintiff’s claim was based on statements made by the borough police manager in response to the background check company hired by the City of Philadelphia, and those statements were ultimately communicated to the City of Philadelphia’s representatives and employees. The Court found that the plaintiff’s allegations sufficiently alleged that publication of the statements occurred in Philadelphia and that republication by the background check company was authorized, intended or reasonably expected. Thus, as the republication occurred in Philadelphia, venue was proper where the republication occurred, in Philadelphia, was proper.</p>
Thanks to Alexandra Perry for her contribution to this post and please write to <a href="mailto: mbono@wcmlaw.com">Mike Bono</a> for more information.

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