United States District Court, D. Maryland
REDMONDS ENTERPRISE, INC.
CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC.
Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge
Redmonds Enterprise, Inc. (“Redmonds”) filed a
state-court action, subsequently removed to this court,
alleging that defendant CSX Transportation, Inc.
(“CSX”) is liable for defamation, injurious
falsehood, and tortious interference with economic advantage
or business relationships under Maryland law. Now pending is
CSX's motion to dismiss. (Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 7.) The
motion has been fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary to
its resolution. See Local Rule 105.6. For the
reasons discussed below, the motion will be denied.
subsidiary of transportation supplier CSX Corporation,
operates a railroad through which it provides cargo
transportation services and runs a transportation office at a
railyard in Jessup, Maryland (the “Jessup
railyard” or “railyard”). (Compl., ECF No.
16, ¶ 7.) Redmonds is an automobile transportation
company that subcontracts with other automobile
transportation companies at the railyard. (Id.
¶ 2.) The companies that contract directly with CSX to
provide automobile transportation services at the railyard
include Moore Transportation, United Road, Hansen &
Adkins Auto Transport, Delta Automotive Services, Inc.,
Virginia Transportation Corporation, and Cassens Transport
(the “contractor companies”). (Id.
¶¶ 2, 12.) Since January 2013, Redmonds has done
“a substantial amount of business” with Moore
Transportation and United Road, “actively pursued
business” from Hansen & Adkins Auto Transport and
Delta Automotive Services, Inc., and “less actively
pursued business” from Virginia Transportation
Corporation and Cassens Transport. (Id. ¶¶
around October 2015, Redmonds experienced a decline in its
subcontracting business with Moore Transportation and United
Road, its two main customers at the railyard. (See
Id. ¶ 20.) This decline occurred shortly after an
incident in which two automobiles at the Jessup railyard were
vandalized (the “October 2015 incident”).
(Id.) The vehicles were physically damaged and
“sprayed with profanity-laced messages targeting
‘Rick.'” (Id. ¶¶ 18- 19.)
“Rick” is the first name of Rick Orner, the
general manager of CSX's transportation office at the
Jessup railyard. (Id. ¶ 19.)
the October 2015 incident, the CEO of Redmonds, Mr. Redmond,
continued to seek subcontracting work from Moore
Transportation and United Road, but his requests were
rejected. (Id. ¶ 20.) He was informed
by agents and employees of those companies that they could
not do business with Redmonds due to an e-mail directive they
had received from CSX. (Id.) In subsequent
discussions, Mr. Redmond learned from agents and employees of
the contractor companies (“contractor agents”)
that Mr. Orner had sent an e-mail to the six contractor
companies that read: “CSX is banning Redmonds
Enterprise from this Jessup railyard. Do not dispatch or
transact any further business with Redmonds Enterprise until
further notice, due to habitually vandalizing cars”
(“CSX e-mail”). (Id. ¶¶ 21,
30.) The contractor agents also indicated that a video
recording appears to show one of Redmonds' employees in
the area of the vandalized automobiles. (Id. ¶
23.) The employee in question (“accused
employee”) has stated that he observed that the
vehicles had been vandalized, but he denies having vandalized
them. (Id. ¶ 27.) He does not have a personal
relationship with Mr. Orner. (Id. ¶ 28.)
Although Redmonds has asked CSX on multiple occasions to view
the video recording, see a copy of the CSX e-mail, and meet
with Mr. Orner and other employees and agents of CSX to
discuss the October 2015 incident and the basis for CSX's
allegations against Redmonds, CSX has not accommodated these
requests. (Id. ¶¶ 24-26.)
September 28, 2016, Redmonds filed a lawsuit against CSX in
the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, Maryland.
(See Civil Cover Sheet, ECF No. 2; Compl.) CSX
removed the action to this court on December 8, 2016. (Notice
of Removal, ECF No. 1.) CSX subsequently filed the pending
motion to dismiss.
ruling on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must
“accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as
true, ” and “construe the facts and reasonable
inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff.” Ibarra v. United States, 120
F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). “Even though the
requirements for pleading a proper complaint are
substantially aimed at assuring that the defendant be given
adequate notice of the nature of a claim being made against
him, they also provide criteria for defining issues for trial
and for early disposition of inappropriate complaints.”
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir.
2009). “The mere recital of elements of a cause of
action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not
sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule
12(b)(6).” Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435,
439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the
factual allegations of a complaint “must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the
assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true
(even if doubtful in fact).” Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations
omitted). “To satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need
not ‘forecast' evidence sufficient to prove the
elements of the claim. However, the complaint must allege
sufficient facts to establish those elements.”
Walters, 684 F.3d at 439 (citation omitted).
“Thus, while a plaintiff does not need to demonstrate
in a complaint that the right to relief is ‘probable,
' the complaint must advance the plaintiff's claim
‘across the line from conceivable to
plausible.'” Id. (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).
asks this court to dismiss Redmonds' claims of injurious
falsehood (Count I), tortious interference with economic
advantage or business relationships (Count II), and malicious
and negligent defamation (Counts III and IV), under two
separate theories. First, it asserts that Redmonds has failed
to state a claim as to each count. Second, it contends that
the CSX e-mail is protected by the conditional privilege and
therefore cannot form the basis for a defamation, injurious
falsehood, or tortious interference claim.
Has Redmonds Stated a Claim as to Each Tort?
contends that the CSX e-mail constitutes defamation under
Maryland law. To recover for defamation, the plaintiff must
establish that: “(1) the defendant made a defamatory
statement regarding the plaintiff to a third person; (2) the
statement was false; (3) the defendant was legally at fault
in making the statement; and (4) the plaintiff suffered harm
thereby.” S. Volkswagen, Inc. v. Centrix Fin'l,
LLC, 357 F.Supp.2d 837, 843 (D. Md. 2005) (quoting
Holt v. Camus, 128 F.Supp.2d 812, 815 (D. Md.
accepting the allegations in the complaint as true, the CSX
e-mail clearly constitutes a defamatory statement. The claim
that Redmonds “habitually vandaliz[es] cars” is
one that “tend[s] to expose the plaintiff to public
scorn, hatred, contempt, or ridicule.” Peroutka v.
Streng, 695 A.2d 1287, 1293 (Md. 1997) (defining a
“defamatory communication”). Further, because it
disparages Redmonds' business reputation, it falls into ...