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Sindorf v. Jacron Sales Co. - 27 Md. App. 53, 341 A.2d 856 (1975)

Rule:

In the absence of a dispute as to the facts, the existence vel non of a common interest or duty giving rise to a qualified privilege in a defamation action is a matter of law for the court.

Facts:

Plaintiff Jack Sindorf felt that his right to personal security had been violated by the defamation of his reputation and good name by Jacron Sales Co. (“Jacron”) upon the spoken words of one of its employees, Robert Fridkis. Seeking balm for his hurt, he instituted an action at law in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County for the tort of slander, demanding judgment against the corporation and Fridkis, and each of them, in the amount of $ 150,000 compensatory damages and $ 150,000 punitive damages. He did not prevail. Fridkis was dismissed from the action prior to trial and a judgment was entered in his favor for costs.  A verdict in favor of Jacron, which went to trial on a plea of the general issue, was directed by the trial judge at the close of all the evidence. Sindorf appealed from the judgment entered thereon in favor of Jacron for costs. 

Issue:

Did the trial court err in granting the directed verdict in favor of defendant former Jacron in the plaintiff former employee's defamation case?

Answer:

Yes

Conclusion:

The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding that the trial court erred in granting the directed verdict for defendants because the evidence led to conclusions on which reasonable minds could differ. While defendant Jacron claimed, as a former employer having a duty to a new employer, to have a conditional privilege in making the statements, the Court held that if plaintiff former employee Sindorf could show malice on the part of former employer Jacron, the privilege would be overcome. Further, because Jacron's statements were made voluntarily, Jacron’s motive should be more carefully scrutinized. Thus, the question of malice was a proper one for the jury.

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