Jenna Addis has asked a judge to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought against her by former Lower Merion High School physics teacher Robert Schanne. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Addis is claiming that her alleged defamatory statements were made in a “quasi-judicial” setting and are exempt from defamation claims.
Last December, Jenna Addis told Lower Merion school officials that as a student at the school she had a relationship with teacher Robert Schanne. Addis claimed that the relationship began during her senior year in 2003 and morphed from flirting to hugging to kissing to oral sex by the end of that year reports the Inquirer. As a result, the Lower Merion school board fired Schanne.
In March, Schanne sued Addis for defamation. While not denying that he had a relationship with Addis, Schanne claims that the relationship began after Addis turned 18 and well after she had graduated from Lower Merion High School. Schanne claims that Addis concocted the story of their relationship as a way to exact revenge on Schanne for ending their relationship.
Schanne was never charged with a crime.
A defamatory statement is generally a false statement about someone that injures that person's reputation. If someone has made a false statement that causes injury to another, that person may be liable for damages. However, not all defamatory statements create legal liability. For example, statements made in court proceedings are considered privileged and cannot lead to defamation liability regardless of the truth of the statements.
The attorney for Jenna Addis is claiming that Addis' statements made in Lower Merion's internal proceedings are the same as statements made in court, and so Addis cannot be found liable in Robert Schanne's defamation lawsuit. It will be interesting to see whether the judge agrees that the school's internal proceedings are the same as judicial proceedings.
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