Justice Alexander Hunter Jr.

Defendants moved to dismiss student Lipsky’s defamation complaint for compensatory and punitive damages per se claiming the statements they published were made with actual malice and in bad faith, and were materially and knowingly false. Lipsky was dismissed from the Ph.D. program at Yeshiva University’s graduate school of psychology after a committee of professors and the dean determined she lacked the professionalism and character to be awarded a doctorate in psychology. Defendants argued Lipsky failed to plead with particularity her defamation claim, alleging even if the statements could be considered defamatory, they were privileged and were never published to a third party. The court agreed, finding Lipsky did not have a cause of action for defamation or defamation per se as she failed to show the statements at issue were published to any third party that was not a member of the faculty charged with evaluating her academic conduct. It also ruled the statements were protected by the common interest privilege as they were made by and between faculty members in furtherance of a common interest. Thus, dismissal was granted.