United States District Court, E.D. California
matter is before the court on the motion to dismiss plaintiff
Lady Christian Havens (Havens) claim for state law
defamation, brought by defendants AutoZoners, LLC
(AutoZoners) and AllData, LLC (AllData). At hearing, Michael
Hoffman appeared for defendants and Erik Roper appeared for
plaintiff. As discussed below, defendants' motion is
GRANTED with leave to amend.
PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS
filed the original and first amended complaints in Sacramento
Superior Court on July 22 and September 6, 2016,
respectively. Not. Removal Exs. A & B, ECF No. 1-1. On
October 20, 2016, defendants removed the case to this court
on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. ECF No. 1 at 2.
operative first amended complaint, which is verified, alleges
state law defamation against defendants. See
generally First Am. Compl. (FAC), ECF No. 1-1.
November 17, 2016, defendants filed the instant motion to
dismiss plaintiff's seventh claim for defamation. Mot.,
ECF No. 8. Plaintiff filed an opposition on December 30,
2016, Opp'n, ECF No. 11, and defendants a reply on
January 6, 2017, Reply, ECF No. 12.
worked for defendants AllData and AutoZoners from December
16, 2013, to August 27, 2015. FAC ¶¶ 10, 48.
“Autozoners handles the day to day operation of
AllData.” Id. ¶ 3. On or about May 12,
2014, plaintiff became a full time UX Analyst for defendants and
was responsible for “creating innovative software
solutions, conducting user-centered research designing
modern, clean, [and] engaging interfaces and for the
conceptualization and design of product/user
interactions.” Id. ¶ 18. At all relevant
times, her direct supervisor was John Peterson,
Autozoners' product design manager. Id. ¶
the last six months of her employment, plaintiff received
numerous written warnings for her work performance and
behavior. For example, on or about March 23, 2015, plaintiff
alleges “defendants” issued a written warning
stating she had been “insubordinate, failed to follow
process, had exhibited inappropriate behavior, and [had a]
poor quality of work.” Id. ¶ 33. On or
about June 8, 2015, she received another written warning,
also stating she had been “insubordinate, failed to
follow process, had exhibited inappropriate behavior, and
[had a] poor quality of work.” Id. ¶ 39.
The allegations do not clarify who issued these written
about June 15, 2015, plaintiff was placed on a Performance
Improvement Plan (“PIP”) based on the written
warnings. Id. ¶ 41. On or about July 14, 2015,
plaintiff received her first PIP “fail” grade
from Peterson, although she received positive feedback from
customers regarding to her performance at work. Id.
¶ 43. On or about August 27, 2015, defendants terminated
plaintiff's employment. Id. ¶ 48.
support of her claim for defamation, plaintiff alleges
“defendants” made “false and defamatory
statements expressly and impliedly stating that plaintiff was
incompetent in her job functions, she was disrespectful,
unprofessional, and immature; and she had violated
[d]efendants' internal policies.” Id.
¶ 103. Plaintiff further alleges “[w]hile the
precise dates of these publications are not known to
[p]laintiff except as herein alleged, these publications were
made on or after August 17, 2015, and were made to employees
of [d]efendants, and recipients in the community.”
Id. ¶ 104.
may move to dismiss for “failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
The motion may be granted only if the complaint lacks a
“cognizable legal theory” or if its factual
allegations do not support a cognizable legal theory.
Hartmann v. Cal. Dep't of Corr. & Rehab.,
707 F.3d 1114, 1122 (9th Cir. 2013). The court assumes these
factual allegations are true and draws reasonable inferences
from them. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
complaint need contain only a “short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled
to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), not “detailed
factual allegations, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). But this rule demands
more than unadorned accusations; “sufficient factual
matter” must make the claim at least plausible.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Accordingly, ...