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Guilarte v. Monti

United States District Court, N.D. California

August 2, 2016

ANDREA MONTI, et al., Defendants.



         Before the Court are two motions: (1) defendant Andrea Monti's ("Monti") "Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), " filed June 14, 2016; and (2) defendant Marriott Hotel Services, Inc.'s ("Marriott) "Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Section 12(b), " filed June 21, 2016.[1] Plaintiff Eduardo Guilarte ("Guilarte") has filed a combined opposition to the motions, to which Monti and Marriott have separately replied. Having read and considered the papers filed in support of and in opposition to the motions, the Court hereby rules as follows.[2]


         In the operative complaint, the First Amended Complaint ("FAC"), Guilarte alleges that Hugo Valdez ("Valdez") and defendant Monti "were partners in organizing and hosting" the "2015 Argentine Tango USA Championship & Festival" ("the Event"). (See FAC ¶¶ 1, 15.) Plaintiff alleges that Valdez is his "close friend." (See FAC ¶ 15.) Prior to the Event, according to Guilarte, Monti "attempted to gain sole control and ownership of the partnership" and "us[ed] threats and harassment" to do so, including "fil[ing] a baseless application for a temporary restraining order" against Valdez. (See id.)

         The Event occurred at the San Francisco Airport Marriott Waterfront Hotel. (See FAC ¶ 16.) Guilarte alleges he attended the event "using a valid ticket" he received from Valdez and that, after Guilarte had "participated in a few dances, " Monti "confronted" him and stated, "You cannot be here." (See FAC ¶ 18.) Guilarte also alleges that Monti advised him she "reserved the right to control admission" (see id.) and would "have security throw [him] out" (see id. (alteration in original).) Guilarte further alleges that Monti told "attendees of the Event" that Guilarte was "not permitted to attend the Event because 'he was there as a spy' on behalf of . . . Valdez, " that Guilarte's "attendance was harmful to the Event, " that Guilarte was "trespassing, " and that "she had the authority to have him removed from the Event at her whim." (See FAC ¶ 19.)

         Guilarte alleges that "Marriott security personnel physically removed [him] from the Event, " even though Guilarte told the "security officer" he had "written permission to attend the Event from the Event's co-host, as well as a purchased ticket." (See FAC ¶ 20.) According to Guilarte, he was then "detained at the manager's desk in the lobby, " where the manager "insisted" that Guilarte "had to leave" and then had him "removed" from the hotel, even though Guilarte showed the manager, inter alia, "his ticket to the Event." (See FAC ¶ 21.)

         Guilarte also alleges that he "designed a logo" and had "permitted" Valdez and Monti, "as business partners, " to use the logo "in connection with their joint dance festival business activities, " and that Monti thereafter "unilaterally" began using the logo without Guilarte's permission. (See FAC ¶ 45.)

         Based on the above allegations, Guilarte alleges six causes of action, specifically, "Slander Per Se, " "False Light, " "Trademark Infringement, " "False Imprisonment, " "Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, " and "Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress."


         Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure "can be based on the lack of a cognizable legal theory or the absence of sufficient facts alleged under a cognizable legal theory." See Balistreri v. Pacifica Police Dep't, 901 F.2d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1990). Rule 8(a)(2), however, "requires only 'a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Consequently, "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations." See id. Nonetheless, "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." See id. (internal quotation, citation, and alteration omitted).

         In analyzing a motion to dismiss, a district court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint, and construe them in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See NL Indus., Inc. v. Kaplan, 792 F.2d 896, 898 (9th Cir. 1986). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual material, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level[.]" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation and citation omitted).


         Defendants seek dismissal of each of the causes of action alleged against them. The Court considers the causes of action, in turn.

         A. First Cause of Action ("Slander Per Se")

         In the First Cause of Action, Guilarte alleges that Monti's statements made to persons attending the Event constituted slander in that, Guilarte asserts, the statements are reasonably understood as an assertion Guilarte was trespassing. See Cal. Civ. Code § 46 (defining "slander" as "a false and unprivileged publication, orally uttered" that, inter alia, "[c]harges any person with crime"); see also Cal. Penal Code § 602(1) (defining as "misdemeanor" act of "[r]efusing or failing to leave land, real property, or structures belonging to or lawfully occupied by another and not open to the general public, upon being requested to leave by . . . the owner, the owner's agent, or the person in lawful possession").

         In its moving papers, Marriott argues the First Cause of Action is subject to dismissal as time-barred, specifically, for the reason that the docket indicates the initial complaint was filed more than one year after the date of the alleged slander. See Cal. Civ. Proc. Code § 340(c) (providing action for slander must be filed "within one year"). In her reply, Monti similarly argues that the First Cause of Action is barred by the applicable statute of limitations.[3]

         Guilarte alleges the statements at issue were made at the Event. At one point in the FAC, he alleges he attended the Event "[o]n or about April 3, 2015" (see FAC ¶ 18), and, at another, he alleges he attended "on or before April 5, 2015" (see FAC ¶¶ 50-51). In support of its motion, Marriott requests that the Court take judicial notice of an advertisement listing the dates of the Event as "April 2 - 5, 2015" (see Def. Marriott's Req. for Judicial Notice Ex. C), which request Guilarte does not oppose. Indeed, Guilarte, in his opposition, concurs that the Event took place from April 2 through April 5, 2015, which is consistent with his allegations that he attended the Event "on or after April 3, 2015" and also "on or before April 5, 2016."

         Given that the Event occurred in the time period of April 2, 2015, to and including April 5, 2016, the Court, at the pleading stage, finds the latest date on which the allegedly slanderous statements could have been made is April 5, 2015. Consequently, in order for a slander claim based thereon to have been pleaded within the applicable one-year limitations period, Guilarte needed to file the initial complaint no later than April 5, 2016. See Cal. Gov't Code ยง 6803 (providing the word "'year' means a period of 365 days"; further providing "[t]he added ...

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