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Thanh v. Ngo

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 8, 2015

HOAI THANH Plaintiff.
v.
HIEN T. NGO Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

PETER J. MESSITTE, District Judge.

This case (" Thanh II ") represents another chapter in the seemingly endless litigation between Hoai Thanh and Hien T. Ngo. The factual and procedural background of the case may be found in the Court's Opinion in Hoai Thanh v. Hien T. Ngo, Civ. No. 11-PJM-1992 (May 8, 2015) (" Thanh I "), the last battleground between these disputants before the present case.

A.

The Court has before it in the present case Defendant Ngo's Motion to Dismiss. ECF No.

7. Consideration of this motion requires the Court to re-visit Thanh I.

In Thanh I, on November 27, 2013, Thanh filed a Motion to Amend his Complaint, which would have added further defamation and false light claims to that case. The Court held that the motion came too late in that proceeding since, as early as September 17, 2012, Thanh had represented to the Court that he planned "to file a motion to amend the Complaint to include what [Thanh] contends are specific additional instances of defamation and false light invasion of privacy." Thanh I, ECF No. 49, at 2. As a result, the Court denied Thanh's Motion to Amend, but did grant him leave to file a separate lawsuit alleging any cause of action included in the Motion to Amend that was not already part of Thanh I. See Order of January 14, 2014, Thanh I, ECF No. 105, at 2. This is that separate lawsuit.

Thanh filed his Complaint in the present case ( Thanh II ) on February 14, 2014. ECF No. 1. He filed his First Motion to Amend the Complaint in this case on June 13, 2014. ECF No. 6. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1), Thanh was entitled to amend the Complaint as a matter of course within 21 days of serving the initial Complaint and, since Ngo was served on June 7, 2014, ECF No. 5, i.e., within 21 days, Thanh was entitled to amend. The Court therefore granted the First Motion to Amend the Complaint by marginal order dated March 30, 2015. ECF No. 13.

Ngo filed a Motion to Dismiss the First Amended Complaint on June 30, 2014. ECF No. 7. Before the Court could rule on the Motion to Dismiss, Thanh filed a Second Motion to Amend the Complaint on July 24, 2014, ECF No. 9, in which he sought to make one simple amendment to the First Amended Complaint. In the First Amended Complaint, Thanh had alleged that he was "a resident of Virginia" and Ngo was "a resident of Maryland." ECF No. 6-2. In the Second Amended Complaint, Thanh changed "resident" to "citizen, " such that Thanh now alleged he was "a citizen of Virginia and the defendant [was] a citizen of Maryland." Ngo did not oppose this change, but otherwise stated her opposition to the Second Motion to Amend on the grounds that it failed to cure the other deficiencies outlined in her Motion to Dismiss, and that any amendment was therefore futile. Def.'s Resp. Br., ECF No. 10. Since Rule 15(a)(2) provides that a court should freely grant leave to amend when justice so requires, the Court granted Thanh's First Motion to Amend the Complaint by marginal order on March 30, 2015. ECF No. 12.

Although the Motion to Dismiss is now moot on jurisdictional grounds, the Court holds that its grant of leave to Thanh to file the Second Amended Complaint did not moot Ngo's Motion to Dismiss on non-jurisdictional grounds.[1]

Having granted summary judgment in favor of Ngo on all claims in Thanh I, see Opinion, Thanh I, ECF No. 147, the Court turns to the Motion to Dismiss in Thanh II.

B.

Ngo argues that Thanh's claims for malicious prosecution in the present suit should be dismissed, because this Court already entered summary judgment against Thanh on exactly the same allegations in Thanh I. Ngo is correct. The malicious prosecution claims (more accurately styled as "malicious use of process" claims) in the Second Amended Complaint are virtually identical to the malicious prosecution claims as to which the Court granted summary judgment in favor of Ngo in Thanh I. See Order, Thanh I, ECF No. 121; compare Second Amended Compl. ¶¶ 108-132, Thanh II, ECF No. 9-2 with Compl. ¶¶ 92-116, Thanh I, ECF No. 10. Thanh's malicious prosecution claims in Thanh II are therefore barred by reason of res judicata and Ngo's Motion to Dismiss the malicious prosecution claims herein is GRANTED.

Ngo next submits that all but one of Thanh's defamation and false light claims in the present case are barred by applicable statutes of limitations. The Court reviews the various claims.

First, the legal framework:

Every alleged defamatory statement constitutes a separate instance of defamation, which a plaintiff must specifically allege. Gainsburg v. Steben & Co., 838 F.Supp.2d 339, 344 (D. Md. 2011) (citing English Boiler & Tube, Inc. v. W.C. Rouse & Son, Inc., 172 F.3d 862 (4th Cir. 1999)), aff'd, 519 F.App'x 199 (4th Cir. 2013). The applicable limitations period for a defamation claim is one year. Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. Art., § 5-105. The Maryland Court of Special Appeals has held that the applicable limitations period for a false light claim is three years. See Allen v. Bethlehem Steel Corp., 76 Md.App. 642, 649 (1988) (construing Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-101). Accordingly, Thanh must have filed a complaint specifically alleging each allegedly defamatory or falsely ...


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