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Smith of Borough of Dunmore, 07-4534

By FindLaw Staff on January 05, 2011 3:32 PM
Action for defamation, due process and right of privacy violations and retaliation

Smith of Borough of Dunmore, 07-4534, concerned a challenge to the district court's judgment in favor of the defendants in a fire captain's suit against the Borough of Dunmore and five council members, claiming defamation, due process violations, right of privacy violations, and retaliation, arising from his suspension and the publicizing of that suspension in a local paper.

The court vacated the district court's order to the extent that it granted summary judgment on plaintiff's due process claims and remanded for consideration of whether the pre-hearing suspension was supported by an interest in public safety and for consideration of whether plaintiff has satisfied the "stigma-plus" test, establishing deprivation of a liberty interest.  However, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's defamation claim as the district court correctly concluded that Pennsylvania's high public official immunity shields the council members from any claim for defamation.  The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiff's privacy claims because plaintiff's claims require that the information not be of public concern and because there is no genuine dispute as to the public's interest in firefighter qualifications.  The court affirmed the district court's judgment as a matter of law on plaintiff's claim for punitive damages as there is no proper defendant from which plaintiff can claim punitive damages as the borough remains the only defendant for the retaliation claim and because a municipality is immune from punitive damages.  Lastly, the court affirmed the district court's partial denial of plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees and costs.

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