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Building Owner Loses|Op-Ed Defamation Claim

(CN) - A man who successfully challenged the demolition of his fire-damaged apartment building did not prove that a newspaper defamed him by characterizing him as a slumlord and an unscrupulous businessman, the Pennsylvania Superior Court ruled.

Attorney Charles Kurowski sued the Washington (Pa.) Observer-Reporter for its articles and editorials about his efforts to prevent his building from being demolished after an arsonist set fire to it. The paper criticized the quality of his subsequent upkeep of the building, which housed an addiction-recovery program and several apartments.

In an editorial titled "City Should Target Run-Down Properties," The Observer said Kurowski was repairing his building at an "agonizingly slow pace."

"At the present pace of repair, we can probably expect completion sometime before the return of Halley's Comet," the paper quipped.

The paper also listed Kurowski's property as one that has been cited for weed and grass violations.

The trial court ruled that the paper did not defame Kurowski, and the Superior Court agreed.

"There was no implication in the editorial that the author was basing his opinion on undisclosed facts," Judge Robert Freedberg wrote. "We agree with the trial court that the expression of opinion in the editorial is not capable of defamatory meaning."

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