(Superior Court, Essex County, Judge Vena) Defamation/Slander-Civil Assault-Summary Judgment Obtained

SR&A partner David Abrams won summary judgment dismissing all claims in a case brought by a church member against the Pastor and certain Board Members. SR&A successfully argued that the claimed slander and defamation did not constitute actionable defamatory language, even if true, but rather was rhetorical hyperbole and protected expressions of opinion. Additionally, Mr. Abrams relied on a case of first impression previously obtained by the firm in which the Appellate Division found that intra-church speech at business meetings was protected under a qualified privilege. Finally, the court agreed with defendants’ contentions that plaintiff’s claim of civil assault was without merit, because a reasonable person would not have been put in apprehension of physical harm by the alleged conduct of the church Pastor in waving a microphone near plaintiff during a hostile verbal dispute.