HARRISBURG – The Commonwealth Court has reversed a ruling in a defamation lawsuit that transferred the case from Philadelphia County's to Delaware County's court of common pleas.
The court issued its ruling July 13, leaving the case filed by former Colwyn Borough police officer Wendell Reed to be heard in Philadelphia.
Reed filed suit against the borough and manager Paula Brown in late 2014, charging she defamed him when officials from the city of Philadelphia contacted her as part of a background check before officially hiring him for its department.
After rising as high as police chief in Colwyn Borough, Reed resigned from the department in 2013, and by October 2014 had an offer from the city, pending the completion of a background check.
As part of his suit, Reed contends that when city officials contacted Brown, she informed them that he had not resigned from the Colwyn department but was terminated for misconduct and was not eligible for rehire.
Soon after that, the city officially rescinded its offer based on what it deemed to be “false statements” made by Reed during the interview process.
As part of his appeal, Reed contended that the proceedings should have been held in Philadelphia as opposed to Delaware County.
Throughout the proceedings, attorneys for Brown argued that their client never published any statement about Reed in Philadelphia and only spoke with agents working on his background check in a phone call that also did not take place in the city.
"This (trial court) ruling appears to be based strictly on the trial court’s misapplication of the law of defamation and resulting determination that the cause of action arose in Delaware County and the transactions upon which the cause of action was based, i.e., Brown’s conduct, occurred in Delaware County," the Commonwealth Court ruling says.
"Because the trial court’s decision to transfer venue was based solely on a legally erroneous determination that venue did not lie in Philadelphia County, the trial court committed an error of law."