United States District Court, D. Delaware
Drescher, RONALD DRESCHER & ASSOCIATES, Wilmington, DE.
George Bochetto, Peter R. Bryant, BOCHETTO AND LENTZ,
Philadelphia, PA. Attorneys for Plaintiff.
E. Farnan, Christine Dealy Haynes, Rudolf Koch, RICHARDS,
LAYTON & FINGER, PA, Wilmington, DE. Arwen Johnson, Linda
M. Burrow, CALDWELL LESLIE & PROCTOR, PC, Los Angeles,
CA. Attorneys for Defendants Warner Bros. Entertainment,
Inc., TMZ Productions, Inc., TTT West Coast, Inc., and EHM
G. Connolly, III, CONNOLLY GALLAGHER LLP, Wilmington, DE.
Joel R. Weiner, KATTEN MUCHIN ROSENMAN LLP; Los Angeles, CA
Attorneys for Defendant Barstool Sports, Inc.
E. Hanson, Jr., MORRIS JAMES LLP, Wilmington, DE. James
Rosenfeld, Jaya Kasibhatla, DAVIS WRIGHT TREMAINE LLP, New
York, NY Attorneys for Defendant BET Interactive, LLC.
E. Hanson, Jr., MORRIS JAMES LLP, Wilmington, DE. Attorney
for Defendants Real Times Media, LLC, Daily News, L.P.,
Interactive One, LLC, Gannet Company, Inc., CBS Interactive,
Inc., Viacom International, Inc., and iHeartMedia, Inc.
Benedict Cicero, Stephanie S. Habelow, CHIPMAN BROWN CICERO
& COLE, LLP, Wilmington, DE. Attorneys for Defendant
Cheri Media LLC.
Stephen B. Brauerman, Sara E. Bussiere, BAYARD, P.A.,
Wilmington, DE. David J. Margules, Elizabeth A. Sloan,
BALLARD SPAHR LLP, Wilmington, DE. Mark I. Bailen, James F.
Romoser, BAKER & HOSTETLER LLP, Washington, DC. Attorneys
for Defendant Townsquare Media, Inc.
U.S. District Judge
March 23, 2016, Plaintiff Marques Andre Johnson
("Plaintiff or "Johnson"), a rap and hip-hop
artist, filed a libel and false light invasion of privacy
complaint against various media and news outlets
("Defendants"). (D.I. 1) ("Complaint")
Plaintiff asserts that Defendants published a story wrongly
identifying Plaintiff as the rapper who attempted a gruesome
self-mutilation suicide. (Id.) After Defendants
filed motions to dismiss the claims for, inter alia,
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,
Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on August 25, 2016.
(D.I. 21) ("Amended Complaint") Defendants
subsequently filed motions to dismiss the Amended Complaint
on the same bases on which they had earlier moved to dismiss
the original Complaint. (D.I. 27, 28, 30, 33) The parties
completed briefing on the motions to dismiss the Amended
Complaint on November 11, 2016. (D.I. 35, 36, 37, 39, 40, 41,
before the Court are motions to dismiss filed by: (1)
Defendants BET Interactive, LLC; CBS Interactive, Inc.; Daily
News, L.P.; Gannett Company, Inc.; Interactive One, LLC; Real
Times Media, LLC; Viacom International, Inc.; and
iHeartMedia, Inc. (D.I. 27); (2) Defendants Warner Bros.
Entertainment, Inc.; TMZ Productions, Inc.; EHM Productions,
Inc.; and TTT West Coast, Inc. (D.I. 28); (3) Defendant
Townsquare Media, Inc. (D.I. 30); and (4) Defendant Cheri
Media LLC (D.I. 33). For the reasons set forth below, the
Court will grant all four motions to dismiss for failure to
state a claim on which relief may be granted based on the
statute of limitations, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). The motions will be denied as moot in all
Marques Andre Johnson is a rap and hip-hop artist who
performs under the stage name "Andre Roxx." (D.I.
21 at ¶ 2) In 2012, the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan
inducted Plaintiff into their affiliate group, the Wu-Tang
Killa Beez, boosting Plaintiffs music career, including by
allowing him to tour with other members of the Wu-Tang Clan
throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico from 2012
through late 2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 3-5, 61-62,
71) Then, however, in March 2014, Plaintiff was arrested,
convicted, and incarcerated, ultimately serving 16 months in
a Pennsylvania prison. (Id. at ¶ 88)
are various corporations owning and operating entertainment
news and media sources including, among others,
TMZ.com. (Id. at ¶ 22)
April 2014, while Plaintiff was incarcerated in Pennsylvania,
a different rap artist affiliated with Wu-Tang Clan -
similarly named Andre Johnson, but performing under the stage
name "Christ Bearer" ("Christ Bearer") -
attempted suicide at a party in California by severing his
penis and jumping out of a window. (Id. at
¶¶ 101-02) After Christ Bearer's failed suicide
attempt, Defendants, on April 16, 2014, reported the story on
TMZ.com, wrongly attributing Christ Bearer's
actions to Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶ 105) After this
initial publication, the story "spread like wild fire
across the internet and on television and radio news."
(Id. at ¶ 111) Plaintiff learned of the news on
TV and on a CBS radio broadcast the day it was published -
April 16, 2014 - while he was in prison in Pennsylvania.
(Id. at ¶¶ 129-30) "As a result of
Defendants' reckless, egregious, and defamatory
statements, [Plaintiff] was forced to go into protective
custody because other inmates began threatening, harassing
and attacking him." (Id. at ¶ 131)
the April 16, 2014 news reports, Plaintiff has been publicly
disavowed by the Wu-Tang Clan, unable to book concerts
anywhere in the country, and unable to earn a living.
(Id. at ¶¶ 136, 146, 153, 156)
Furthermore, Plaintiff has been criticized and humiliated on
social media, repeatedly approached and harassed by strangers
in public, and rejected by friends and romantic partners, ...