ROBERT ABBOTT v. ABCO WELDING INDUSTRIAL SUPPLY, INC.

2009 Ct. Sup. 18304
No. CV 09-5026588Connecticut Superior Court Judicial District of Hartford at Hartford
November 10, 2009

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This case is unpublished as indicated by the issuing court.]

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION TO STRIKE
WAGNER, J., JTR.

On April 13, 2009, the plaintiff, Robert Abbott, filed this revised two-count complaint against the defendant, ABCO Welding Industrial Supply, Inc. in which he alleges, inter alia, the following facts: From 1991 until 2008, the plaintiff was employed as the defendant’s Bulk Gas Manager. On or about July 7, 2008, the plaintiff reached an agreement with Airgas East, Inc. (Airgas) to become an employee of Airgas, after which the plaintiff submitted his resignation to the defendant. On or about July 16, 2008, the defendant sent a letter to Airgas containing false and improper statements regarding the plaintiff’s employment with the defendant, as a result of which Airgas rescinded its offer of employment of the plaintiff.

On July 24, 2009, the defendant filed this motion to strike count one of the revised complaint which alleges defamation claiming that it fails to state a claim for defamation with sufficient specificity.

The defendant argues that the plaintiff fails to specify the allegedly defamatory statements made by the defendant, and instead merely reproduces the text of the July 16, 2008 letter. The plaintiff contends that the complaint pleads sufficient facts that could support the cause of action.

“A defamatory statement is defined as a communication that tends to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him . . . To establish a prima facie case of defamation, the plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) the defendant published a defamatory statement; (2) the defamatory statement identified the plaintiff to a third person; (3) the defamatory statement was published to a third person; and (4) the plaintiff’s reputation suffered injury as a result of the statement.”Gambardella v. Apple Health Care, Inc., 291 Conn. 620, 627-28, 969 A.2d 736
(2009).

CT Page 18305 In the present case, construing the complaint in the manner most favorable to maintaining its legal sufficiency, the plaintiff has pleaded sufficient facts to support a claim for defamation. First, the plaintiff has pleaded facts that, if believed, establish that the defendant published to a third person Airgas, a letter containing defamatory statements identifying the plaintiff to that third person and containing a number of false and improper statements concerning the plaintiff’s profession. The complaint contains an excerpt of the letter that contains the allegedly defamatory statements, including, inter alia, that the plaintiff lied about returning the defendant’s property; that he had not followed up on sales leads, but instead forwarded them to his personal email address; that he took no action on a bid for the state of Connecticut; that he sent to his personal email address a series of emails that involved the defendant’s proprietary and confidential materials; and that he accessed pornographic material with his work email. Thus, the first three elements of a claim for defamation have been sufficiently pleaded.

The plaintiff has also pleaded facts sufficient to support the final element of a claim for defamation, namely that the plaintiff’s reputation suffered an injury as a result of the statement. While the above statements concerning the plaintiff’s employment would alone be sufficient to injure the plaintiff’s reputation, he also alleges that, as a result of the defendant’s publication of the letter, Airgas rescinded its offer of employment to the plaintiff.

Motion to strike first count is denied.

CT Page 18306