United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
L. WHITE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiffs' Petition (ECF No. 6). This matter is
fully briefed and ready for disposition.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Standard for Personal Jurisdiction
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).
"[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).
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.