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Jefferson v. Zukerberg

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 2, 2018

CURTIS JEFFERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MARK ZUKERBERG, FACEBOOK, COMPANY, et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pro se Plaintiff Curtis Jefferson ("Plaintiff or "Jefferson") brings this action against Defendants Facebook, Inc. ("Facebook"), Mark Zuckerberg, [1] Yahoo and Alfred Amoroso[2]seeking $700 million dollars for "defamation of character" stemming from an arrest that took place in Baltimore, Maryland approximately two years ago. (Am. Comp., ECF No. 3.) Currently pending before this Court is Defendants Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg's (collectively "Facebook Defendants") Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint pursuant to 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 4.) The parties' submissions have been reviewed, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, Facebook Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 4) is GRANTED.[3]

         BACKGROUND

         In ruling on a motion to dismiss, this Court "accept[s] as true all well-pleaded facts in a complaint and construe[s] them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Wikimedia Found, v. Nat'l Sec. Agency, 857 F.3d 193, 208 (4th Cir. 2017) (citing SD3, LLC v. Black & Decker (U.S.) Inc., 801 F.3d 412, 422 (4th Cir. 2015)). Further, as a pro se Plaintiff, this Court has "liberally construed" the pleadings and held them to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept, No. 17-1249, 698 Fed.Appx. 141 (4th Cir. Oct. 5, 2017).

         On November 17, 2017, Plaintiff Curtis Jefferson filed a Complaint seeking $700 million dollars for character defamation in connection with events that transpired during his arrest in Baltimore, Maryland on September 16, 2015. (ECF No. 1 at 6.)[4] According to Jefferson's statement of the claim, he was "drop[ping] his girlfriend off from the store," when he "witness[ed] a fight in the alley" involving two girls. (Id.) Jefferson attempted to see if "some[one] needed help" but could not tell because a "helicopter was flying around in the air." (Id.) Jefferson alleges that he was then "pulled over for nothing" and "arrested for [a] suspended license." (Id.) Construing Plaintiffs pleadings liberally in light of his pro se status, it appears Jefferson's main contention against the Facebook Defendants stems from his picture being placed on Facebook during this arrest.[5]

         On January 10, 2018, Facebook Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff Jefferson's Complaint with prejudice[6] for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (ECF No. 4.) Alternatively, if this Court finds it has jurisdiction over this dispute, Facebook Defendants request that this case be dismissed based upon Plaintiffs failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and because Plaintiffs claim is barred by § 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Despite notice from this Court to Plaintiff Jefferson (ECF No. 8), Plaintiff did not file a response to the Motion to Dismiss.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         I. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)

         A motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, under Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, challenges a court's authority to hear the matter brought by a complaint. See Davis v. Thompson, 367 F.Supp.2d 792, 799 (D. Md. 2005). This challenge under Rule 12(b)(1) may proceed either as a facial challenge, asserting that the allegations in the complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a factual challenge, asserting "that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true." Kerns v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Or. 2009) (citation omitted). In a facial challenge, a court will grant a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction "where a claim fails to allege facts upon which the court may base jurisdiction." Davis, 367 F.Supp.2d at 799. Where the challenge is factual, "the district court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with respect to subject matter jurisdiction." Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence. Demetres v. East West Const., Inc., 776 F.3d 271, 272 (4th Cir. 2015).

         B. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         Under Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). While a complaint need not include "detailed factual allegations," it 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 Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A plaintiff cannot rely on bald accusations or mere speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, 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 Pout de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc.,637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Cir. 2017). However, a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from those facts. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A pro se plaintiffs pleadings are "to be liberally construed" and are "held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Alley v. Yadkin County Sheriff Dept, No. 17-1249, 698 Fed.Appx. 141 (4th Cir. Oct. ...


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