There is an interesting defamation case developing in New York where John F. Singer is suing Centropa (the Central Europe Center for Research and Documentation), an oral history project based in Europe. Centropa published a study in 2005 that quoted Singer’s mother as saying that he was not circumcised as an infant. Singer insists that this is defamatory for a Jewish male and is seeking damages.
Singer says that he told the Center director Edward Serotta that the fact was wrong and that his mother denies saying anything of the kind. Yet, it was not correct and later republished when the website was redesigned. The quote was not removed until October 2008. It appears that Singer felt people looked at him a bit differently in the interim. He insisted that “as a Jewish male, it is in direct contradiction to Jewish law to be uncircumcised.”
The complaint alleged that he “suffered loss of his reputation, shame, mortification and extreme emotional distress.” He claims libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress, seeks an injunction and damages. He insists that he suffered “severe embarrassment, mental anguish and extreme emotional distress” from being labeled an uncircumcised male.
This would not easily into areas of per se defamation that applies in slander. This libel action could argue that the uncircumcised allegations raises a question of immorality but that would be a bit of a stretch. If there are not presumed damages, he would have to show special damages, which would be pretty tough. This is not likely the type of thing that people get off an elevator when you enter — assuming that you are clothed at the time. Also, for intentional infliction, he would need not only to show intent but also the type of severe and outrageous act needed to sustain such a claim. That also may be hard to sustain. This will certainly be a case of first impression and discovery could be quite interesting.
For a copy of the complaint, click here.
For the full story, click here.