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DiSalle v. P.G. Publishing Co.

544 A.2d 1345 (1988)

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DiSalle v. P.G. Publishing Co.

Pennsylvania Superior Court

544 A.2d 1345 (1988)

Facts

Dave Warner was an editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Post-Gazette), a newspaper owned by P. G. Publishing Co. (defendant). Warner was contacted by Paul Ciaffoni, who described his family’s dispute over the legitimacy of his deceased father’s will. Ciaffoni claimed Richard DiSalle (plaintiff), a local attorney and judge, conspired with Ciaffoni’s sister Elizabeth Cowden to falsify the will. Post-Gazette reporter Tom Porter was assigned to the story. Porter primarily relied on Ciaffoni to draft the article. Warner read the draft and pointed out that the article offered no reason for why DiSalle would become involved in the dispute, so Porter added a quote pulled from a will-related deposition of the deceased father. This quote suggested DiSalle was involved in the controversy because he had a romantic relationship with Cowden. Upon publication of the article, DiSalle sued for libel in Pennsylvania state court. The trial court permitted the jury to consider punitive damages because it determined that both actual malice and common-law malice had been established. The jury returned a verdict awarding DiSalle $210,000 in compensatory damages and $2 million in punitive damages. P. G. Publishing appealed the punitive-damages award, arguing that the trial court erred by allowing the jury to consider punitive damages and by failing to set aside the award as excessive.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cirillo, J.)

Dissent (Montgomery, J.)

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