TUMAN v. GENESIS ASSOCIATES
935 F.Supp. 1375 (1996)
United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania.
April 25, 1996.
I cannot find the same with regard to the alleged statements made by Defendant Neuhausel to the West Whiteland Township Police Department in July 1992. Although ¶ 63 encompasses the substance of what Defendant Neuhausel allegedly said to police,17 it asserts simply that Defendants uttered defamatory statements to other Genesis clients, and makes no reference to defamatory remarks made to others outside the Genesis network. For this reason, I will grant Defendant Neuhausel's motion and enter judgment with respect to the defamation claim against her. My inquiry does not end there, however, because Defendant Mansmann further argues that Plaintiffs' defamation claim against her must fail because there is an absence of evidence that Plaintiffs suffered special damages as a result of the defamation. See 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 8343(a) (West 1982) (setting forth plaintiff's burden of proof in defamation claims).18 Plaintiffs argue in response that because Defendants statements constitute defamation per se, Plaintiffs do not need to prove special harm. Under Pennsylvania law, a plaintiff may recover on a defamation claim in the absence of proof that s/he suffered special harm as a result of the defamation, where the words constitute slander per se. Walker v. Grand Central Sanitation, Inc.,430 Pa.Super. 236, 634 A.2d 237, 242 (1993), app. denied, 539 Pa. 652, 651 A.2d 539 (1994). Words imputing a criminal offense, loathsome disease, business misconduct or serious sexual misconduct constitute slander per se. Chicarella v. Passant,343 Pa.Super. 330, 494 A.2d 1109, 1115 n. 5 (1985). Applying this criteria, I find that the alleged statements made by Defendant
Mansmann to Kathy Kelly, as described above, do not constitute slander per se because they do not impute loathsome disease, business misconduct, serious sexual misconduct, or criminal offense to Plaintiffs. As Defendant Mansmann points out, Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that being a member of a satanic cult is a criminal offense in Pennsylvania. See Clemente v. Espinosa,749 F.Supp. 672, 679 (E.D.Pa.1990) ("A statement constitutes slander per se as an accusation of criminality when it charges either directly or indirectly the commission of a specific offense punishable by imprisonment") (citation omitted). The closest that Defendant Mansmann's statements come to imputing a criminal offense is by stating that Plaintiffs' cult would probably kill Diane. This, however, is equally insufficient because "[a] charge of criminal intent or design, or merely ability to commit a crime" does not constitute slander per se. Id. (citation omitted).
Therefore, I will enter judgment for Defendant Mansmann on the defamation claim against her as well.
D. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Claim
Defendants correctly argue that in order to make out a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress in Pennsylvania, Plaintiffs must offer expert medical confirmation that they actually suffered the claimed distress. See Kazatsky v. King David Memorial Park, Inc.,515 Pa. 183, 527 A.2d 988, 995 (1987); see also Krysmalski v. Tarasovich,424 Pa.Super. 121, 622 A.2d 298, 316-17 (Cirillo, J., dissenting) (explaining that "[i]n claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the supreme court imposed the requirement of expert medical evidence of the distress as a counterweight to the ease with which fraudulent claims of outrageous behavior could be brought"), app. denied, 535 Pa. 675, 636 A.2d 634 (1993). Defendants contend that Plaintiffs will not be able to sustain this burden because they testified that they did not seek treatment for the various injuries they have alleged19 nor were they diagnosed by a professional as suffering from these ailments. K. Tuman dep at 414-18; J. Tuman dep. at 212-13, 277-78, 284-85, 292, 306-07, 332.