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Gray v. Mayberry

United States District Court, S.D. Georgia, Dublin Division

December 17, 2018

RONALD B. GRAY, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDRIA MAYBERRY; MYA KAY DOUGLAS; and THE TMG FIRM, LLC, Defendants.

          MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          BRIAN K. EPPS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff, incarcerated at Wheeler Correctional Facility in Alamo, Georgia, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”) in this civil rights case. Because he is proceeding IFP, Plaintiff's second amended complaint must be screened to protect potential defendants. Phillips v. Mashburn, 746 F.2d 782, 785 (11th Cir. 1984); Al-Amin v. Donald, 165 Fed.Appx. 733, 736 (11th Cir. 2006).

         I. SCREENING OF THE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT

         A. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff names as Defendants (1) Andria Mayberry; (2) Mya Kay Douglas; and (3) The TMG Firm, LLC (“TMG”). (Doc. no. 12, p. 1.) Taking all of Plaintiff's factual allegations as true, as the Court must for purposes of the present screening, the facts are as follows.

         In 2016, Defendant TMG “published and edited copyrights” for Defendants Mayberry and Douglas. (Id. at 13.) In April 2017, Defendant TMG printed a book titled “Before Empire: Raising Bryshere ‘Yazz The Greatest' Gray.” (Id.) Defendant Mayberry is quoted in the book as stating facts about Plaintiff she knew were false, and she disclosed private facts about Plaintiff. (Id.) Defendant Douglas, the author, quoted the statements of Defendant Mayberry with knowledge of their falsity and with a specific intent to harm Plaintiff. (Id.) Defendant TMG failed to investigate the defamatory speech for truthfulness, failed to supervise Defendants Mayberry and Douglas, and are liable for the actions of Defendants Mayberry and Douglas based on the respondeat superior doctrine. (Id.)

         B. DISCUSSION

         1. Legal Standard for Screening

         The complaint or any portion thereof may be dismissed if it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or if it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune to such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). “Failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard as dismissal for failure to state a claim under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).” Wilkerson v. H & S, Inc., 366 Fed.Appx. 49, 51 (11th Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (citing Mitchell v. Farcass, 112 F.3d 1483, 1490 (11th Cir. 1997)).

         To avoid dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the allegations in the complaint must “state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). That is, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. While Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure does not require detailed factual allegations, “it demands more than an unadorned, the defendant unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. A complaint is insufficient if it “offers ‘labels and conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action, '” or if it “tenders ‘naked assertions' devoid of ‘further factual enhancement.'” Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). In short, the complaint must provide a “‘plain statement' possess[ing] enough heft to ‘sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Finally, the court affords a liberal construction to a pro se litigant's pleadings, holding them to a more lenient standard than those drafted by an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (per curiam); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). However, this liberal construction does not mean that the court has a duty to re-write the complaint. Snow v. DirecTV, Inc., 450 F.3d 1314, 1320 (11th Cir. 2006).

         2. Plaintiff Fails to State Claims Against Defendants Mayberry and Douglas for Defamation, Libel, Invasion of Privacy, and Negligence

         Plaintiff alleges Defendants Mayberry and Douglas defamed and libeled him by disclosing private facts in the book that are false, malicious, and defamatory. (Doc. no. 12, p. 13.) “Under Georgia law, three elements must be proved to establish defamation: (1) a false statement that was (2) malicious, and (3) published.” Boyd v. Experian Info. Sols., Inc., 692 Fed.Appx. 980, 983 (11th Cir. 2017) (citing O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1(a)). Libel is defamation by written statement. O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1(a). Plaintiff's second amended complaint merely recites the elements of defamation and libel without providing any factual basis to satisfy the elements and show why he is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557). Indeed, Plaintiff fails to specify the statement made or explain why it is false. Thus, Plaintiff fails to state a claim for defamation and libel.

         As to Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Mayberry for invasion of privacy and negligence, he alleges she disclosed “private facts” concerning Plaintiff in the book. (Doc. no. 12, p. 13.) The essential elements of a negligence claim are the existence of a legal duty, breach of that duty, a causal connection between the defendant's conduct and the plaintiff's injury, and damages. Wilson v. Mallard Creek Holdings,519 S.E.2d 925, ...


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