Slanderous Rumors Lead To Civil Action

Date: April 19, 2011
Posted In: DLP Law

          Dudley had applied for a job as a laborer for a local construction company. The owner of the construction company asked one of his workers, Fast Eddie, if he knew Dudley and what his reputation was as far as his work ethic. Fast Eddie responded that he did not know much about Dudley\’s work ethic but he had heard a lot of stories about Dudley being a convicted felon who could not be trusted. Dudley was not hired and when he found out what Fast Eddie had said to his boss concerning Dudley\’s reputation, Dudley was irate.

            Dudley sought the assistance of an attorney because he wanted to know whether he could bring a slander action against Fast Eddie.  Fast Eddie stated that he had heard from one of his friend, Snidely,  who had known Dudley a long time, that Dudley had been in jail a number of times. As it turned out, Dudley was never in jail and was never even a suspect in any criminal activity.

ISSUE:          Will Dudley be successful in his civil action against both the person  (Snidely) who originally spread the rumor as well as the individual who repeated that rumor (Fast Eddie) to Dudley\’s potential boss?

ANSWER:     Yes. Snidely, the original worker who represented that Dudley had a criminal record and could not be trusted, had committed slander. Under Pennsylvania\’s Common Law republication rule, the second worker, Fast Eddie who repeated that information to the potential boss who was deciding whether to hire Dudley, would also be liable. One who repeats defamatory statements is as liable as the original defamer in a civil action for slander.

Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive.  Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column. 

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.