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Kabbaj v. Google, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

April 7, 2014

YOUNES KABBAJ, Plaintiff,
v.
GOOGLE, INC., et al., Defendants.

Younes Kabbaj, Plantation, Florida. Pro Se Plaintiff.

Ian Robert Liston, Esquire, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Georgetown, Delaware. Counsel for Defendants Google, Inc. and Amazon.com, Inc.

A. Thompson Baylis, Esquire, Abrams & Bayliss LLP, Wilmington, Delaware. Counsel for Defendant Yahoo! Inc.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Younes Kabbaj filed this action asserting jurisdiction by reason of diversity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332 and raising claims under Delaware law. (D.I. 2, 23). He appears prose and was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis (D. I. 5), but he paid the filing fee on October 2, 2013. Presently before the court are numerous motions, including motions to dismiss, motions to amend, discovery motions, and a motion for sanctions. (D. I. 26, 28, 39, 46, 56, 64, 76, 81, 90, 92, 96). The matters have been fully briefed.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed this action on August 28, 2013 (D.I. 2, 7), followed by an amended complaint (D.I. 23) on November 12, 2013, subsequent to the filing of a motion to dismiss by Defendants Amazon.com, Inc. and Google, Inc. (D.I. 19). The amended complaint alleges that unknown third parties authored and posted online content that defamed Plaintiff.[1] Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are liable because this content was allegedly hosted on services operated by Defendants Google, Inc., Amazon.com, Inc., and Yahoo! Inc. Plaintiff raises claims against Defendants for: (1) declaratory and injunctive relief; (2) tortious interference with a contract; (3) negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (4) libel per se. The amended complaint alleges that Defendants "hosted" the content (D.I. 23 ¶¶ 12, 33), "administered" the underlying services ( id. at ¶ 12), and provided a "platform[]" for others' content ( id. at ¶¶ 25, 37). More particularly, the amended complaint alleges that: (1) Google administered a blogger service and profile pages that contained defamatory and threatening communications ( id. at ¶ 12-13); (2) Amazon created several accounts wherein it published/sold novels authored by third-parties and published user comments that defamed Plaintiff ( id. at ¶¶ 17-22), and (3) defamatory content was created and sent by users of Yahoo's email and internet service platform ( id. at ¶¶ 25, 37). The amended complaint identifies John Doe Defendants as the content creators. (D.I. ¶¶ 6, 22, 123). In his prayer for relief, Plaintiff seeks discovery, injunctive relief, and compensatory and punitive damages.

MOTIONS TO DISMISS

Defendants seek dismissal (D.I. 39, 46) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Plaintiff opposes (D.I. 45, 48) the motions. Under Rule 12(b)(6), a motion to dismiss may be granted only if, accepting the well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court concludes that those allegations "could not raise a claim of entitlement to relief." Bell At/. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007). "In deciding motions to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts generally consider only the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and documents that form the basis of a claim." Lum v. Bank of Am., 361 F.3d 217, 221 n.3 (3d Cir. 2004).

A well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere labels and conclusions. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). The assumption of truth is inapplicable to legal conclusions or to "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action supported by mere conclusory statements." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. When determining whether dismissal is appropriate, the court must take three steps: "(1) identify[] the elements of the claim, (2) review[] the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) look[] at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluat[e] whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his Complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).

DISCUSSION

Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) on the grounds that: (1) they are immune from suit pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 230(c);[2] (2) the amended complaint disregards Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1) requirements that a pleading's averments be simple, concise, and direct; and (3) the amended complaint fails to state a claim for relief. In addition, Defendants contend that further amendment is futile.

47 U.S.C. § 230

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims are barred by § 230 of the Communications Decency Act.[3] Under the Act, interactive computer service providers are immunized against liability for third-party-created content. Section 230 of the Act provides in relevant part:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.... [Further, n]o cause of action may be brought and no liability may be imposed under any State or local law that is inconsistent with this section.

47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1), (e)(3). Section 230 "precludes courts from entertaining claims that would place a computer service provider in a publisher's role, and therefore bars lawsuits seeking to hold a service provider liable for its exercise of a publisher's traditional editorial functions." Green v. America ...


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