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Discovery Communications, LLC v. Computer Sciences Corporation

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

July 8, 2013



DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Presently pending and ready for resolution in this tortious interference with a contract case is a motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Computer Science Corporation ("CSC"). (ECF No. 5). The issues are fully briefed and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6, no hearing being deemed necessary. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion will be granted.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

The following facts are taken from the complaint (ECF No. 1) and are construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff Discovery Communications, LLC ("Discovery"), the non-moving party. Discovery entered into an employment contract with Thomas R. Colan ("Mr. Colan") on February 8, 2008. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 6). In this agreement, Mr. Colan agreed to serve as "Discovery's Executive Vice President [and] Chief Accounting Officer." ( Id. ). The contract "called for a term of employment beginning on March 17, 2008 and ending on March 16, 2011." ( Id. ¶ 7). Subsequently, Discovery and Mr. Colan entered into two amendments to the original employment contract. ( Id. ¶ 6). The second amendment to the employment contract, entered into on January 20, 2011, "extended the conclusion of the term of employment from March 16, 2011 to March 16, 2013." ( Id. ¶¶ 6, 7). The amended employment contract also specified that early termination by Mr. Colan would constitute a material breach. ( Id. ¶ 11).[1]

On August 17, 2012, Mr. Colan resigned from Discovery by way of email. (ECF No. 1-1). The email indicated that he accepted a job offer from another company. ( Id. ). Mr. Colan's resignation stated that August 30, 2012, would be his final day with Discovery. ( Id. ).

On August 21, 2012, Mr. Colan met with two Discovery executives, each of whom told him that he remained under contract and that Discovery would not release him from the employment contract. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 14). Two days after meeting with Discovery leadership, Mr. Colan notified Discovery that he intended to breach his contract and accept employment elsewhere. ( Id. ¶ 15).

Discovery learned that Defendant CSC intended to employ Mr. Colan through a Form 8-K filed by CSC with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on August 23, 2012. ( Id. ¶ 16). The following day, August 24, 2012, Discovery told CSC of Mr. Colan's employment contract and his continuing obligations under that contract. ( Id. ¶ 17). That same day, Discovery sent a letter informing CSC that Mr. Colan was "currently a party to an Employment Agreement with Discovery, with a term that does not expire until March 16, 2013" and that "Discovery has not authorized Mr. Colan to provide services to any third party." ( Id. ¶ 18) (quoting ECF No. 1-1). CSC did not respond. ( Id. ¶ 19).

On August 27, 2012, Discovery sent another letter to both Mr. Colan and CSC, reiterating that the employment contract did not terminate until March 16, 2013 and that Mr. Colan's resignation was not accepted. ( Id. ¶ 20). The letter also stated that Mr. Colan's August 30, 2012 resignation date constituted a material breach of the employment contract. (ECF No. 1-1). In the same letter, Discovery provided Mr. Colan with "written notice of [Mr. Colan's] opportunity to cure the breach that [Mr. Colan's] resignation... would cause" and provided him a 10 day cure period. ( Id. ). CSC did not respond to the letter. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 21). Mr. Colan began work at CSC on August 31, 2012. ( Id. ¶ 22).

B. Procedural Background

On September 28, 2012, Discovery filed a complaint containing a single claim against CSC for tortious interference with the employment contract between itself and Mr. Colan. (ECF No. 1). On October 29, 2012, CSC filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 5). Discovery has opposed this motion (ECF No. 8), and CSC has replied (ECF No. 9).

II. Standard of Review

In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court "must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint, '" and must "draw all reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff.'" E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Nemet Chevrolet, Ltd. v., Inc., 591 F.3d 250, 253 (4th Cir. 2009)).

A complaint must set forth "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest" a cognizable cause of action, "even if... [the] actual proof of those facts is improbable and... recovery is very remote and unlikely." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007). A complaint that provides no more than "labels and conclusions, " or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, " is insufficient under the Rule. Id. at 555. So, if the "wellpleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of ...

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