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Goodman v. Performance Contractors, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

April 11, 2018

DAVID GOODMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
PERFORMANCE CONTRACTORS, INC., and DEREK RACCA, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANT RACCA'S MOTION TO DISMISS

          MARK W. BENNETT U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. INTRODUCTION ........................................................................... 2

         A. The Amended Complaint .......................................................... 2

         B. The Motion To Dismiss ............................................................ 4

         II. LEGAL ANALYSIS ........................................................................ 6

         A. Standards For A Rule 12(b)(6) Motion To Dismiss .......................... 6

         B. Discussion ............................................................................ 8

         1. Materials properly before the court ..................................... 8

         2. Lack of a cognizable legal theory of “publication” .................. 9

         3. Insufficient pleading of other elements of “defamation” .............................................................. 14

         III. CONCLUSION ............................................................................ 16

         Do a co-worker's intra-corporate statements about the plaintiff made only to their employer satisfy the “publication” element of defamation under Iowa law? The co-worker says no, but the plaintiff argues that the Iowa Court of Appeals, the state's intermediate court of appeals, has rejected the co-worker's argument, ruling that the intra-corporate nature of statements goes to qualified privilege, not “publication.” I must decide whether the plaintiff's defamation claim survives a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         A. The Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff David Goodman originally filed this action on August 22, 2017, in the Iowa District Court for Woodbury County, against his former employer, Performance Contractors, Inc., and two former co-workers, Derek Racca and Kelly Pabst. On October 6, 2017, Performance removed the action to this federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction prior to service on Racca or Pabst. On January 23, 2018, Goodman filed an Amended Complaint asserting state race discrimination and retaliation claims against Performance and Pabst, federal discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims against Performance, and a defamation claim against Performance, Pabst, and Racca.[1]Because only the defamation claim is at issue on Racca's Motion To Dismiss, which is now before me, I will focus on that claim.

         Apart from an introductory allegation that Racca is a citizen of Louisiana who, at all material times, lived and worked in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, Racca is only mentioned individually in Count II of Goodman's Amended Complaint asserting Goodman's “Defamation” claim. The allegations in that Count, in their entirety, are as follows:

45. Mr. Goodman re-alleges paragraphs 1 through 44 as if fully set forth herein.
46. In the course of their work for Defendant Performance Contractors, Inc., Defendants Kelly Pabst and Derek Racca stated that Mr. Goodman threatened to commit violent crimes including a mass shooting.
47. Defendant Kelly Pabst stated that Mr. Goodman had “mentioned numerous time [sic] when he had enough he was coming in shooting [and] was going to make world news.”
48. Defendant Derek Racca stated that Mr. Goodman had “threatened to come to the CF Port Neal expansion project and ‘shoot it up' and kill those that don't like him or piss him off.”
49. Defendant Derek Racca also stated Mr. Goodman said he “was going to take a bat and wrap it in barbwire ...

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