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Cornett v. Gawker Media, LLC

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 23, 2014

HANNAH CORNETT, an individual, Plaintiff,
v.
GAWKER MEDIA, LLC, a limited liability company, Defendant.

ORDER

GLORIA M. NAVARRO, Chief District Judge.

Pending before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction (ECF No. 7) filed by Defendant Gawker Media, LLC ("Gawker"). Rather than file a Response to Gawker's Motion, Plaintiff Hannah Cornett ("Plaintiff") filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 24), which is also pending before the Court. Gawker filed a Response to Plaintiff's Motion (ECF No. 41) and Plaintiff filed a Reply (ECF No. 45). For the reasons discussed in this Order, the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Gawker Media, LLC is DENIED-IN-PART and GRANTED-IN-PART. In addition, Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint is DENIED with leave to file an Amended Complaint that cures the defects identified below.

I.BACKGROUND

This case arises from an article that appeared on Deadspin.com, a website that is owned and operated by Defendant Gawker. (Notice of Removal Ex. A ("Compl.") ¶¶ 2, 11, ECF No. 1.) Specifically, beginning on September 15, 2011, a series of articles appeared on Deadspin.com entitled "The Surfer Grifter: The Weird Tale of Hannah Cornett and Her $20K Vegas Hotel Bill." ( Id. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff alleges that each of these articles "explicitly and/or implicitly" accused her of "committing criminal conduct as a grifter' by committing larceny" and falsely claimed that she "fabricated her career as an athlete." ( Id. ¶ 7.)

In response to these articles, on September 12, 2012, Plaintiff initially filed an action in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles against Gawker.com Inc ("California Action"). ( See Def's Resp. to Pl.'s Mot. to File Am. Compl., Ex. 1, ECF No. 41-2.) Subsequently, on May 29, 2013, that court issued an Order to Show Cause why the complaint should not be dismissed for failure to serve the defendants. ( Id. ) Thereafter, the California court ordered Plaintiff to serve defendants by July 19, 2013. ( Id. ) However, on July 19, 2013, Plaintiff filed a statement with the California court in which she indicated that she was voluntarily dismissing the California action "in order to proceed in Nevada where she can have the witnesses she needs." ( Id. )

On August 1, 2013, Plaintiff initiated this action in Nevada state court against Gawker Media, LLC and A.J. Daulerio.[1] (Notice of Removal, Ex. A ("Compl."), ECF No. 1.) In her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts three causes of action: (1) Defamation; (2) False Light Invasion of Privacy; and (3) Negligent Interference with Prospective Economic Advantages. (Compl. ¶¶ 15-51, ECF No. 1.) Defendants timely removed the action to this Court, (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1), and Gawker filed a Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and for Failure to State a Claim (Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 7). Although Plaintiff failed to file an opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff did file a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 24.)

II.MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION

A.Legal Standard

Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant may move to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). Once a defendant raises the defense, the burden then falls on the plaintiff to prove sufficient facts to establish that jurisdiction is proper. Boschetto v. Hansing, 539 F.3d 1011, 1015 (9th Cir. 2008). A plaintiff can carry this burden only by presenting sufficient evidence to establish that (1) personal jurisdiction is proper under the laws of the state where it is asserted; and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction does not violate the defendant's right to due process secured by the United States Constitution. Ziegler v. Indian River Country, 64 F.3d 470, 473 (9th Cir. 1995). Because Nevada's long-arm statute is co-extensive with the limits of due process, this analysis collapses into a single inquiry. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 14.065(1) ("A court of this state may exercise jurisdiction over a party to a civil action on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or the Constitution of the United States").

Courts may exercise personal jurisdiction, consistent with the Constitution, only over those defendants that have "certain minimum contacts with [the state] such that the maintenance of a suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Core-Vent Corp. v. Nobel Indus. AB, 11 F.3d 1482, 1485 (9th Cir. 1993) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). A defendant can be subject to either general personal jurisdiction or specific personal jurisdiction in a given state. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 413-415 (1984). In this case, Plaintiff does not argue that Gawker's contacts with the state of Nevada meet the requirements of general personal jurisdiction. Therefore, the Court determines only whether Gawker is subject to specific personal jurisdiction.

A court can exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a defendant when "the case arises out of certain forum-related contacts." Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v. Augusta Nat'l Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1086 (9th Cir. 2000). "[S]pecific' jurisdiction exists if (1) the defendant has performed some act or consummated some transaction within the forum or otherwise purposefully availed himself of the privileges of conducting activities in the forum, (2) the claim arises out of or results from the defendant's forum-related activities, and (3) the exercise of jurisdiction is reasonable." Id. (citing Cybersell, Inc. v. Cybersell, Inc., 130 F.3d 414, 416 (9th Cir. 1997)). "The plaintiff bears the burden of satisfying the first two prongs of the test." Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 802 (9th Cir. 2004). Once the plaintiff satisfies these two prongs, "the burden then shifts to the defendant to present a compelling case' that the exercise of jurisdiction would not be reasonable." Id. (quoting Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 476-78 (1985)). At bottom, the specific jurisdiction inquiry "focuses on the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation." Walden v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1123 (2014) (quoting Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, 775 (1984)).

B.Discussion

For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction over Gawker for this action is proper. Accordingly, Gawker's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction is DENIED.

1.Purposeful Availment

Where, as here, the dispute involves tort claims, courts in the Ninth Circuit inquire "whether a defendant purposefully direct[s] his activities' at the forum state, applying an effects' test that focuses on the forum in which the defendant's action were felt, whether or not the actions themselves occurred within the forum." Yahoo! Inc. v. La Ligue Contre Le Racisme Et L'Antisemitisme, 433 F.3d 1199, 1206 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 789-90 (1984)). To determine whether a defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction in a given forum under the "effects" test, the court must determine that the defendant allegedly "(1) committed an intentional act, (2) expressly aimed at the forum state, (3) causing harm that the defendant knows is likely to be suffered in the forum state." Mavrix Photo, Inc. v. Brand Techs., Inc., 647 ...


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