In Rufeh v. Schwartz , Mark Rufeh sued Seth Schwartz for allegedly libelous comments made about Rufeh's intentions to purchase property in Scarsdale, New York.
After Rufeh agreed to buy Schwartz's home, a dispute arose over the basement and the buyer sued the seller for breach of contract and to recover the downpayment.
Schwartz countered the deal was "part of a fraudulent scheme designed to induce Scarsdale School District officials to permit the children of his wife, [Patricia Rufeh], to enroll in Scarsdale Schools." According to Schwartz, Rufeh pretended to be "establishing residency in Scarsdale, when, in fact, [Rufeh] never intended to consummate the purchase."
When Rufeh filed another case to recover damages for libel and slander, the Westchester County Supreme Court dismissed the libel claim, but allowed the slander component to survive.
On appeal, the Appellate Division, Second Department, ended the case in its entirety. Rufeh needed to show "special damages," meaning "the loss of something economic or pecuniary," as a result of Schwartz's utterances. But, Rufeh failed to establish that he was "injured in his trade, business, or profession." The Court also believed the statements reflected on Rufeh "personally" rather than "professionally" and noted if Schwartz's statements were viewed as slanderous, then "virtually any accusation of fraud" would trigger liability.
(Shouldn't lawyers be able to make a living?)
To download a copy of the Appellate Division's decision, please use this link: Rufeh v. Schwartz