HARRISBURG — A Pennsylvania appeals court has upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss defamation claims brought by an attorney who said a firm falsely accused him of witness intimidation, according to a decision filed on March 29 in the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.
The appeal was decided by judges Carolyn H. Nichols, Mary P. Murray and Correale F. Stevens, who penned the decision.
The case revolves around attorney Bruce Chasan and his law firm, the Law Office of Bruce J. Chasan, which had appealed a ruling by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County that granted summary judgement in favor of attorney Gregory Littman and his firm, Freundlich & Littman LLC, and dismissed Chasan’s defamation claim.
The defamation lawsuit stems from the case Govberg v. Feierstein.
“The allegedly defamatory statements were made in three letters written by attorney Littman and sent to multiple third parties while the Govberg case was pending,” Stevens wrote in the opinion. “Attorney Littman was [the] plaintiffs' counsel, and attorney Chasan represented defendant Edward Feierstein.”
The first letter contained several accusations of misconduct, including allegations that Chasan’s counterclaim in Govberg v. Feierstein was baseless, he had engaged in witness intimidation and that Feierstein continued to sign legal papers after claiming mental incompetence to stand trial.
“The letter instructed attorney Chasan to withdraw the Govberg counterclaim within three days or be subject to an ethics complaint,” Stevens wrote in the decision.
In the second letter to Chasan, Littman alleged that “Chasan's conduct was being used for illegitimate purposes to harass and intimidate others, it violated statutory law and it disrespected the legal system and attorneys.”
The third letter accused Chasan and Feierstein of acting “in bad faith” in the Govberg matter. Littman wrote that his attempts to resolve the issue with Chasan had been met with silence, Feierstein had sued him personally for filing the Govberg suit and that Chasan was suing him for defamation because he had sent the prior two letters to outside parties.
“In its order entered on Aug. 22, 2016, the trial court granted Littman’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed Chasan’s claims with prejudice,” Stevens wrote in the appeals court’s decision.
Chason appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing that it had erred in finding that he had insufficient evidence to establish damages caused by the statements or that the defamatory statements had been published with fault.
The appellate judges held that Chasan failed to identify specifically how his claims met the requirements of a defamation claim.
“Because only claims properly presented before the trial court are preserved for appeal and Chasan’s sufficiency-of-the-evidence challenge in his Rule 1925(b) statement not only was vague but also did not mention publication with negligence and/or reckless disregard or refer to damages, his contentions in his appellate brief concerning those statements are waived,” Stevens wrote in the opinion.