January April 3, 2019
to recover damages for, inter alia, defamation, and for other
relief, brought to the Superior Court in the judicial
district of Stamford-Norwalk and transferred to the judicial
district of Fairfield, where the matter was tried to the
court, Hon. Michael Hartmere, judge trial referee;
judgment for the defendants, from which the plaintiff
appealed to this court. Affirmed.
Virginia Silano, self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).
T. Dubin, for the appellees (defendants).
DiPentima, C. J., and Sheldon and Moll, Js.
DIPENTIMA, C. J.
plaintiff, Virginia Silano, appeals from the trial
court's judgment in favor of the defendant George
Cooney on her claims of slander and libel per se.
Specifically, the plaintiff argues that the court erred (1)
in finding that the defendant's statements to the
Trumbull Police Department were not defamatory and (2) in
concluding that the defendant did not abuse his qualified
privilege in making such statements to the
police. We are not persuaded and, accordingly,
affirm the judgment of the trial court.
following facts, as found by the trial court, and procedural
history are relevant to this appeal. In 2009, the plaintiff
and the defendant were members of the Pinewood Lake
Association (association) and residents of Trumbull. At that
time, the defendant, a retired New York City police officer,
owned and operated abusiness, Hemlock Manor, LLC (Hemlock),
which conducted ‘‘audits'' and
investigations on behalf of Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of
New York (Pepsi Bottling). The audits were conducted pursuant
to a contract that Hemlock had with a business known as
Winthrop Douglas, Inc. (Winthrop), which, in turn, had a
contract with Pepsi Bottling.
conducting a typical audit for Pepsi Bottling, the defendant
would purchase Pepsi product sat various locations throughout
New York in order to recover certain
‘‘codes'' from these items, which he
would later provide to Winthrop. The defendant also would
purchase Pepsi products at his own expense in an attempt to
procure contracts with other Pepsi distributors.
Significantly, as a result of these endeavors, the defendant
accumulated large quantities of soda. He often donated the
soda to various charitable organizations throughout New York,
but he also stored a substantial portion in his home garage.
2009, the defendant, while serving as president of the board
of governors of the association, proposed that if the
association acquired a vending machine, he would stock it
with soda at no cost. The board of governors approved the
proposal, and the association eventually acquired a vending
machine. The association had the vending machine installed
near the community beach on Pinewood Lake and sold the soda
for fifty cents each, which was ‘‘pure
profit'' for the association. According to the
association's financial statements, the income from the
soda was $1093.54 in 2009 and was $1955.83 in
point in 2010, however, the plaintiff became concerned about
the amount of litter the vending machine was causing around
her home and the quality of the soda being sold. She
complained to the defendant about the discarded soda cans and
the fact that they could not be returned for a bottle deposit
refund in Connecticut because they had been purchased in New
York. Despite her complaint, the association continued to
operate the vending machine and the defendant continued to
stock it. In 2011, the plaintiff began making phone calls to
Pepsi Bottling, complaining that the defendant was
redistributing expired Pepsi products that were not
redeemable in Connecticut. When making her complaints to
Pepsi Bottling, the plaintiff provided her name and telephone
number as return contact information.
2, 2011, the president of Winthrop, Marc Aliberti, notified
the defendant that the plaintiff was making complaints to
Pepsi Bottling about him. Specifically, Aliberti told the
defendant that the plaintiff was providing Pepsi Bottling
with negative character references and making false
allegations, including telling the company that the defendant
was selling ‘‘expired'' and
‘‘dirty'' soda in Connecticut and acting
in a negative manner while doing so. After he was provided
with this information, the defendant prepared a statement to
the Trumbull Police Department in order to make a record of
the situation. Detective Kevin Hammel told the defendant
that, while the matter appeared to becivilinnature, if the
plaintiff's behavior continued, the defendant could file
an additional complaint.
28, 2011, Aliberti again called the defendant to tell him
that the plaintiff had made additional false statements about
the defendant to Pepsi Bottling. The defendant was informed
that the plaintiff had accused him of selling Pepsi products
to ‘‘every store in Trum-bull'' and that
he was selling the products in an ‘‘otherwise
negative manner.'' In a sworn statement, dated August
5, 2011, the defendant relayed this information to the
Trumbull Police Department. The defendant indicated that the
plaintiff's false allegations to Pepsi Bottling have
‘‘caused a threat of cancellation of [his]
employment services with the Pepsi organization'' and