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Turntine v. Peterson

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

May 10, 2019

JAMES TURNTINE and PROMOTIONAL SERVICES, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
CHARLES PETERSON and REDEYE RHINO, LLC, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          RONNIE L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Petition (ECF No. 6). This matter is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Promotional Services, Inc. d/b/a Partners Promoting Darts ("PPD") is a governing body for the sport of darts that operates a darts league and stages an annual darts competition in the Kansas City, Missouri area called the Tournament of Champions ("TOC"). (Petition ("Pet."), ¶2). Plaintiff James Turntine ("Turntine") is the owner and president of PPD. (Pet., ¶¶l,5). Defendant RedEye Rhino L.L.C. ("RedEye") sells darts-themed apparel and produces video content related to darts. (Pet., ¶7). Defendant Charles Peterson ("Peterson") is the managing member of RedEye. (Pet., ¶6). Defendants control a Facebook profile with the name "Charles Rer (RedEye Rhino)." (Pet., ¶9). Defendants use the Charles Rer Facebook profile primarily to promote RedEye's business. (Pet., ¶9).

         PPD and RedEye entered into a contract whereby RedEye was granted the right to be the exclusive jersey seller for the PPD during 2015, including at the 2015 TOC (the "2015 Exclusivity Agreement"). (Pet., ¶IO). Pursuant to the agreement, RedEye also purchased $7,500 worth of TOC Vouchers-each of which entitled its holder to participate in the 2015 TOC-with the intent to offer the vouchers as prizes at RedEye Rhino darts competitions. RedEye was supposed to award all of its vouchers prior to August 1, 2015, but RedEye failed to award all of its vouchers prior to August 1, 2015. PPD repurchased $2,500 worth of vouchers from RedEye.

         In 2016, PPD implemented new rules regarding branded darts-themed apparel and products at the TOC. (Pet., ¶I2). Under the new rules, brands that marketed primarily to darts players could be worn at the 2016 TOC only if the brand made a $500 donation to PPD's charity of choice, the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation. (Pet., ¶I2). RedEye was not granted the right to be the exclusive jersey provider at the 2016 TOC. (Pet., ¶I3). RedEye also declined to make the donation necessary to become an authorized brand at the 2016 TOC. Thereafter, Peterson published multiple Facebook posts disparaging Turntine and PPD, including calling Turntine "Hitler." (Pet., ¶I4). In response to these posts, PPD banned RedEye from sponsoring or otherwise participating in any PPD activities and events after the 2016 TOC. (Pet., ¶I4). Thereafter, Defendants published several Facebook posts regarding Turntine and the PPD.

         On December 3, 2018, Plaintiffs filed their Petition alleging three counts: Count I for Libel, Count II for Slander, and Count III for Libel. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. Defendants assert that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendants. In the alternative, Defendants maintain all counts of Plaintiffs' Petition should be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failing to state claims upon which relief can be granted.

         DISCUSSION

         I. PERSONAL JURISDICTION

         A. Standard for Personal Jurisdiction

         "The basis for exercising personal jurisdiction over a non-resident party in Missouri is Missouri's long-arm statute." Myers v. Casino Queen, Inc., 689 F.3d 904, 910 (8th Cir. 2012). "Missouri's long-arm statute authorizes personal jurisdiction over defendants who, inter alia, transact business, make a contract, or commit a tort within the state." Viasystems, Inc. v. EBM-PapstSt. Georgen GmbH & Co., KG, 646 F.3d 589, 593 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Mo. Rev. Stat. § 506.500.1 (2000)). "In adopting the long-arm statute, the Missouri legislature 'intended to provide for jurisdiction, within the specific categories enumerated in the statutes [e.g., transacting business or making a contract within the state,] to the full extent permitted by the due process clause.'" K-VPharm. Co. v. J. Uriach & CIA, S.A., 648 F.3d 588, 592 (8th Cir. 2011) (brackets in original) (quoting State ex rel. Metal Serv. Ctr. of Ga., Inc. v. Gaertner, 677 S.W.2d 325, 327 (Mo. 1984) (en banc)). In all instances, the long-arm statute requires that the cause of action arise from the doing of the enumerated act. Mo. Rev. Stat. § 506.500.3 ("Only causes of action arising from acts enumerated in this section may be asserted against a defendant in an action in which jurisdiction over him is based upon this section."); Johnson v. Gawker Media, LLC, No. 4;15-CV-1137 CAS, 2016 WL 193390, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 15, 2016).

         Further, "[e]ven if personal jurisdiction over a defendant is authorized by the forum state's long-arm statute, jurisdiction can be asserted only if it comports with the strictures of the Due Process Clause." Viasystems, 646 F.3d at 594. "The touchstone of the due-process analysis remains whether the defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with [the forum state] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Id. (internal quotation marks and quoted case omitted). "The fundamental inquiry is whether the defendant has purposefully availed itself of the benefits and protections of the forum state to such a degree that it should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there [.]" Id. (internal citation, quotation marks and quoted case omitted); Johnson v. Gawker Media, LLC, No. 4:15-CV-1137 CAS, 2016 WL 193390, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 15, 2016).

         "Five factors determine whether sufficient contacts exist to support the exercise of personal jurisdiction: (1) the nature and quality of the contacts with the forum state; (2) the quantity of the contacts; (3) the relationship of the cause of action to the contacts; (4) the interest of [the forum state] in providing a forum for its residents; and (5) the convenience or inconvenience to the parties. The first three factors are primary, but all five and the totality of the circumstances determine whether personal jurisdiction exists." Dairy Farmers of Am., Inc. v. Bassett & Walker Int'l, Inc., 702 F.3d 472, 477 (8th Cir. 2012) (internal quotation marks and quoted case omitted); Johnson v. Gawker Media, LLC, No. 4:15-CV-1137 CAS, 2016 WL 193390, at *7 (E.D. Mo. Jan. 15, 2016). In all cases, specific jurisdiction is proper "only if the injury giving rise to the lawsuit occurred within or had some connection to the forum state, meaning that the defendant purposely directed its activities at the forum state and the claim arose out of or relates to those activities." Steinbuch v. Cutler, 518 F.3d 580, 586 (8th Cir. 2008).

         B. Eighth ...


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