LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY v. GRUCCI FOR CONGRESS INC

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Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Second Department, New York.

LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY, respondent, v. GRUCCI FOR CONGRESS, INC., appellant.

Decided: August 16, 2004

DAVID S. RITTER, J.P., GLORIA GOLDSTEIN, WILLIAM F. MASTRO, and STEVEN W. FISHER, JJ. Sinnreich & Safar, LLP, Central Islip, N.Y. (Jonathan Sinnreich and Joseph Russello of counsel), for appellant. Cullen and Dykman Bleakley Platt, LLP, Garden City, N.Y. (James G. Ryan and Marianne McCarthy of counsel), for respondent.

In an action, inter alia, to recover damages for libel and slander, the defendant appeals from an order of the Supreme Court, Nassau County (Cozzens, J.), dated June 18, 2003, which denied its motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint, without prejudice to its renewal upon completion of discovery.

ORDERED that the order is modified, on the law, by deleting the provision thereof denying those branches of the motion which were for summary judgment dismissing the causes of action for interference with prospective economic advantage and intentional interference with a contract and substituting therefor a provision granting those branches of the motion;  as so modified, the order is affirmed, without costs or disbursements.

 The Supreme Court properly denied those branches of the defendant's motion which were for summary judgment dismissing the plaintiff's causes of action to recover damages for libel and slander.   Since the plaintiff is a public figure (see James v. Gannett Co., 40 N.Y.2d 415, 421-422, 386 N.Y.S.2d 871, 353 N.E.2d 834;  Maule v. NYM Corp., 54 N.Y.2d 880, 444 N.Y.S.2d 909, 429 N.E.2d 416;  Ithaca Coll. v. Yale Daily News Pub. Co., 105 Misc.2d 793, 433 N.Y.S.2d 530, affd. 85 A.D.2d 817, 445 N.Y.S.2d 621), it was required to show that the challenged statements were made with actual malice (see New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 280, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686;  Sweeney v. Prisoners' Legal Servs. of N.Y., 84 N.Y.2d 786, 622 N.Y.S.2d 896, 647 N.E.2d 101).   While the defendant established its prima facie entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing those causes of action, in opposition, the plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact.

 However, the causes of action to recover damages for interference with prospective economic advantage and intentional interference with a contract should have been dismissed.   The defendant established its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law dismissing those causes of action through its president's affidavit.   In opposition, with respect to the cause of action to recover damages for intentional interference with a contract, the plaintiff failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to the existence of a valid contract (see Roer v. Cross County Med. Ctr. Corp., 83 A.D.2d 861, 441 N.Y.S.2d 844;  Robert Wayne Distribs. v. Noonan, 204 A.D.2d 421, 614 N.Y.S.2d 177).   The plaintiff also failed to raise a triable issue of fact with respect to the cause of action to recover damages for interference with prospective economic advantage by failing to submit evidence that there was “a reasonable certainty” a contract would have been entered into but for the defendant's interference (see Union Car Advertising Co. v. Collier, 263 N.Y. 386, 401, 189 N.E. 463;  Fine v. Doernberg & Co., 203 A.D.2d 419, 610 N.Y.S.2d 566).

The defendant's remaining contentions are without merit.

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