United States District Court, N.D. Oklahoma
INTEGRATED BUSINESS TECHNOLOGIES, LLC, an Oklahoma limited liability company, Plaintiff and Counter-Defendant,
NETLINK SOLUTIONS, LLC, an Oklahoma limited liability company, BRET P. GRADY, an individual, TYLER MIDDLETON, an individual, JASON ADAY, an individual, KELLY WHITE, an individual, VICTORIA ASHLOCK, an individual, JANE DOE, an individual, and JOHN DOE, an individual, Defendants and Counter-Claimants,
DAVID DOYLE, Counter-Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
the Court are Plaintiff Integrated Business Technologies,
LLC's Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim for Defamation (Doc.
33) and David Doyle's Motion to Dismiss Counterclaim for
Defamation (Doc. 37), both of which are made pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
September 12, 2016, the Court entered an Opinion and Order
(Doc. 25) granting in part and denying in part a motion to
dismiss filed by all Defendants and permitting Plaintiff
Integrated Business Technologies (“IBT”) to file
an Amended Complaint. Defendants filed an Answer and
Counterclaim, followed by a First Amended Counterclaim
“FAC”) (Doc. 31). In the FAC, Defendant Netlink
Solutions, LLC (“Netlink”) asserts three
counterclaims solely against IBT. Individual Defendants
Grady, Middleton, Aday, White, and Ashlock (“Individual
Defendants”) assert a counterclaim for defamation
against IBT and David Doyle (“Doyle”), a new
party. IBT and Doyle filed motions to dismiss the defamation
counterclaim on grounds that it fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.
parties dispute whether Doyle is a
“counter-defendant” under Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 13(h) (governing joining additional parties to a
crossclaim or counterclaim) and 20 (governing permissive
joinder), or a “third-party defendant” under Rule
14 (governing third-party practice). There is frequent
“confusion between the joinder of additional parties
under Rule 13(h) and the impleader provisions of Rule
14.” 6 Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane, Benjamin
Spencer, Federal Practice & Procedure Civ.
§ 1434 (3d ed). However, “the two rules are quite
different in purpose and effect.” Id. Rule 14
“deals exclusively with the addition of third parties
who may be liable to the third-party plaintiff for part or
all of the damages claimed by the original plaintiff, ”
while Rule 13(h) authorizes joinder of parties “only
for the purposes of adjudicating counterclaims or crossclaims
that already have been interposed in the action or that are
being asserted simultaneously with the motion to add the new
Defendants' claim against Doyle is not derivative of
IBT's claim against them, meaning they do not seek
damages from Doyle in the event they are liable to IBT.
Instead, these Defendants seek damages from Doyle
independently on their own defamation claim. Under these
circumstances, Individual Defendants are correct that Rule
13(h), in conjunction with Rule 20(a)(2), permit joinder of
Doyle. See Skycam, Inc. v. Bennett, No.
09-CV-294-GKF-FHM, 2010 WL 5376282, at *7 (N.D. Okla. Dec.
22, 2010) (permitting joinder of new party to counterclaim
under Rule 13(h) where claim was identical to that asserted
against existing plaintiff). 6 Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay
Kane, Benjamin Spencer, Federal Practice & Procedure
Civ. § 1434 (3d ed). Individual Defendants were not
required to seek court permission, and Doyle is properly
joined. See 6 Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane,
Benjamin Spencer, Federal Practice & Procedure
Civ. § 1434 (3d ed) (explaining that, although
motions to join are commonly filed under Rule 13(h), they are
not required). The Court further finds that its above-listed
case caption, although suggested by neither party, most
clearly reflects each party's interests. See
Stonecrest Partners, LLC v. Bank of Hampton Roads, No.
7:10-CV-63-FL, 2011 WL 3664412 (E.D. N.C. Aug. 18, 2011)
(captioning a new counter-defendant in this manner); see
generally 6 Arthur R. Miller, Mary Kay Kane, Benjamin
Spencer, Federal Practice & Procedure Civ.
§ 1434 (3d ed) (explaining that joined parties are to be
aligned according to their interests).
Rule 12(b)(6) Standard
considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court
must determine whether a plaintiff has stated a claim upon
which relief can be granted. To survive a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain “enough
facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ridge at Red Hawk, LLC v. Schneider,
493 F.3d 1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)) (internal
quotation marks omitted). “[T]he mere metaphysical
possibility that some plaintiff could prove
some set of facts in support of the pleaded claims
is insufficient; the complaint must give the court reason to
believe that this plaintiff has a reasonable
likelihood of mustering factual support for these
claims.” Schneider, 493 F.3d at 1177.
(emphasis in original). The Tenth Circuit has interpreted
“plausible, ” as used by the United States
Supreme Court in Twombly, to “refer to the
scope of the allegations in a complaint” rather than to
mean “likely to be true.” Robbins v. Okla.,
ex rel. Dep't of Human Servs., 519 F.3d 1242, 1247
(10th Cir. 2008). “The allegations must be enough that,
if assumed to be true, the plaintiff plausibly (not just
speculatively) has a claim for relief.” Id.
explained in the Court's September 12, 2016 Order (Doc.
25), IBT essentially alleges that, on or around December of
2015, Individual Defendant Bret Grady left IBT's
employment, formed a new company called Netlink, and poached
IBT's employees, in violation of certain agreements and
laws. Grady and the allegedly poached employees counterclaim
that Doyle, on behalf of and as an agent of IBT,
intentionally defamed them by telling Netlink's customers
they had engaged in “criminal conduct and other
conduct, ” which lessened their business reputation.
Specifically, Individual Defendants allege:
Doyle has made false and defamatory statements about the
Individual Defendants to potential customers and current
customers of NetLink. Doyle's statements are false,
unprivileged, and have directly injured the Individual
Defendants in respect to their business by imputing general
disqualification in those respects which the Individual
Defendants' occupation peculiarly requires and by
imputing criminal conduct and other conduct which has a
natural tendency to lessen the Individual Defendants'
business reputation and profit. Doyle and IBT have a
master-servant relationship. Doyle made these false and
defamatory statements while he was acting within the scope of
his employment for IBT. Doyle's actions were taken in
order to further the interests of IBT and did not arise from
some external, independent, and/or personal motive. As the
direct and proximate result of Counter-Defendants' false
statements, the Individual Defendants have been damaged in an
amount to be proven at trial.
(FAC ¶¶ 36-42.)
allegations are sufficient to satisfy Rule 8's pleading
requirements and to state a plausible claim under Rule
12(b)(6). Individual Defendants allege that Doyle told
Netlink customers they had engaged in criminal conduct,
presumably in conjunction with their departure from IBT.
While no time frame is alleged, the time frame is necessarily
sometime between Netlink's formation in December 2015 and
the filing of the FAC in October 2016. IBT and Doyle's
argument that they lack adequate notice or somehow cannot
defend against the defamation claim is unfounded. IBT and
Doyle know the speaker, the limited class of recipients of
the speech, the general message of criminal conduct allegedly
communicated, and a time frame when the defamation occurred.
Further details can be fleshed out in discovery, and these
allegations are sufficient to “afford [Doyle and IBT]
sufficient notice of the communications complained of”
and “enable [them] to defend [themselves].”
Cohlmia v. Ardent Health Servs., LLC, 448 F.Supp.2d
1253, 1268 (N.D. Okla. 2006).