Duquesne Law Review


Kevin P. Allen


In the 1947 case of Gertz v. Robert Welsch, Inc., the United States Supreme Court decided that, at least in certain circumstances, the concept of presumed damages could no longer co-exist with First Amendment freedom so speech rights. The author observes that, nearly thirty years later, Pennsylvania's treatment of "presumed damages" in defamation actions remains unsettled. The article traces the journey of presumed damages in Pennsylvania from a nineteenth century statute, through the early twentieth century, when presumed damages were available whenever a plaintiff could proved the publication of a libelous or slanderous per se statement, to the 1960's and 1970's, when the United States Supreme Court in Gertz limited the application of presumed damages, through today, where the continued availability of presumed damages is in serious doubt under Pennsylvania law.

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