On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.
Michels, King and Dreier. The opinion of the court was delivered by Michels, P.J.A.D.
Pursuant to leave of this court defendants Newark Morning Ledger Company*fn1 (Star Ledger) and Scott Minerbrook (Minerbrook) appeal from a portion of an order of the Law Division that denied their motion for summary judgment in this libel action.
Plaintiff Gabor Molnar (Molnar), the sole stockholder and officer of plaintiff corporations 227 East Orange, Inc. and 262 No. Grover Street, Inc., instituted this action against the Star Ledger and its reporter Minerbrook claiming that he and his corporations were defamed by the article written by Minerbrook and published in the Star Ledger on October 17, 1980. This article, entitled "Court-Dodging Landlord Sentenced to Six Months," read as follows:
An East Orange landlord with a history of court troubles was sentenced yesterday to six months in the Essex County Corrections Center by a judge who found him guilty of noncompliance with the municipal property maintenance code.
Gabor Molnar, who has had numerous bench warrants for his arrest issued over the last two years, was taken into custody by East Orange police at his
Millburn home on charges he illegally shut off water on three separate occasions at two of the five properties he owns in the city, authorities said.
The arrest came after a suspicious two-alarm fire at 262 N. Grove St., which fire officials labeled a "probable arson."
While the arrest was unconnected with the blaze, fire authorities said Molnar refused to take a lie-detector test on circumstances surrounding the fire.
City Council William Eaton explained the arrest and subsequent six-month jail sentence was ordered by Municipal Judge Julius Fielo after Molnar was convicted of six property maintenance violations.
The city counsel explained Molnar was convicted earlier this year of three separate property maintenance code violations by Municipal Court Judge Kenneth Williams, but the verdict was overturned by a higher court.
Eaton said the city law department is investigating the possibility of pursuing class action suits against landlords who don't comply with property maintenance codes but who continue to collect rents.
Molnar owns four other buildings in East Orange. They are: 30 and 31 Beech St. and 165 and 227 Park Ave.
Records show Molnar has not paid taxes on any of the properties since he purchased them in 1978.
All counted, the landlord owes the city more than $170,000 in back taxes plus more than $13,500 in uncollected water bills, according ...