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Gray v. Mayberry

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

February 5, 2019

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

          ORDER

          BRIAN K. EFPS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff, incarcerated at Wheeler Correctional Facility in Alamo, Georgia, is proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis (“IFP”). On December 17, 2018, the Court issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) recommending dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. (Doc. no. 17.) On January 9, 2019, Plaintiff objected to the Court's R&R and alleged new facts not included in his second amended complaint. (Doc. no. 19.) The Court construed Plaintiff's objections to include a motion for leave to file a third amended complaint, which the Court granted. (Doc. no. 20.) On January 28, 2019, Plaintiff filed his third amended complaint. (Doc. no. 21.) The Court vacates its December 17th R&R in a simultaneously filed order. Plaintiff's third amended complaint is before the Court for screening. 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 THIRD AMENDED COMPLAINT

         Plaintiff names as Defendants (1) Andria Mayberry; (2) Mya Kay Douglas; and (3) The TMG Firm, LLC (“TMG”). (Doc. no. 21-1, 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.

         Defendant Mayberry disclosed private facts to the public in the book titled “Before Empire: Raising Bryshere ‘Yazz The Greatest' Gray.” (Id. at 2.) Defendant Mayberry's disclosure of information in the book amounted to defamation, intentional infliction of emotion distress, invasion of privacy, and negligence. (Id.) Defendant Mayberry is quoted in the book as stating facts about Plaintiff she knew were false, defamatory, and malicious. (Id.) Specifically, in the book, she stated

[h]e brutally assaulted me while I was at his grandmother's house while laying on his bed (my face was disfigured and my front tooth was missing). I was seven months pregnant carrying his son Bryshere during the assault. The assault induced my labor. His mother and grandmother heard me scream for help, but they were unable to get the door unlocked. He assaulted me again after I delivered our son by kicking and punching me because I did not want to co-parent with him. His family said that he is diagnosed with schizophrenia.

(Id.) This incident allegedly occurred in 1995, Defendant Mayberry provided her statement sometime in 2016, and the book was published in April of 2017. (Id. at 2-3.) Ms. Mayberry is the only person who knew and provided this false, defamatory, and malicious information. (Id.)

         There is no medical evidence to support her allegations, and no one from Plaintiff's family knew of this information until the book was published. (Id. 2-3.) Defendant Mayberry's statements defame Plaintiff's mother and grandmother, both of whom are deceased. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff's mother and grandmother cared for Defendant Mayberry during and after she was pregnant with Plaintiff's son. (Id.)

         As a result of Defendant Mayberry's false and outrageous statements about Plaintiff in the book, Plaintiff suffered severe distress from media attention when the book was published and marketed through social media outlets, websites, and television programs like “The View” and “The Real.” (Id.) The release of the information through the media is public disclosure of embarrassing facts. (Id.) The book describes raising Plaintiff's son, who was a star on the Fox television show “Empire.” (Id.)

         Because of the published lies about him, Plaintiff has lost his relationship with his son, siblings, and associates. (Id.) Plaintiff is ridiculed and harassed in prison by inmates. (Id.) The statements tarnished his reputation, causing him to eventually have trouble finding a job and social life. (Id.) Further, he is characterized and surrounded by negative publicity, which places him in a false light and requires counseling sessions. (Id.)

         Defendant Mya Kay Douglas is the co-author of the book. (Id. at 4.) She purposely and intentionally quoted the statements of Defendant Mayberry with knowledge the statements were not true. (Id.) She had the specific intent to cause harm to Plaintiff in quoting the statements. (Id.) She is liable for libel and defamation, and her acts took place in 2016 causing the book to be printed in April 2017. (Id.)

         On April 2017, Defendant TMG published the Book. (Id.) Defendant TMG failed to supervise and verify the statements of Defendants Mayberry and Douglas, and it failed to investigate the defamatory speech for truthfulness by researching medical records and police reports. (Id.) Defendant TMG is also liable for the actions of Defendants Mayberry and Douglas based on the respondeat superior doctrine. (Id.)

         Liberally construing Plaintiff's allegations in his favor and granting him the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be derived from the facts alleged, the Court finds Plaintiff has arguably stated claims for negligence and defamation by libel under Georgia law against Defendants for their respective roles in the publication of statements concerning Plaintiff in “Before Empire: Raising Bryshere ‘Yazz The Greatest' Gray.” See O.C.G.A. § 51-5-1; Smith v. Stewart, 660 S.E.2d 822, 832 (Ga.Ct.App. 2008) (discussing defamation by libel and primary publishers and secondary publishers' liability for publishing defamatory information); Lewis v. Meredith Corp., 667 S.E.2d 716, 749 (Ga.Ct.App. 2008) (holding independent negligence claim was tied to defamation claim).

         Additionally, Plaintiff has arguably stated a claim for invasion of privacy by public disclosure of embarrassing facts under Georgia law against Defendants for the publication of the statements concerning Plaintiff in “Before Empire: Raising Bryshere ‘Yazz The Greatest' Gray.” See Yarbray v. S. Bell Tel. & Tel. Co., 409 S.E.2d 835, 836 (Ga. 1991) (describing broad categories of invasion of privacy claims under Georgia law); McConnell v. Dep't of Labor, 814 S.E.2d 790, 801 (Ga.Ct.App. 2018) (discussing elements of public disclosure of embarrassing facts tort under Georgia law). Accordingly, process shall issue as to all Defendants. In a companion Report and Recommendation, the Court ...


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