United States District Court, D. Nevada
GLORIA M. NAVARRO, Chief District Judge.
Pending before the Court is Defendant Bennie Mancino's Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 32), Plaintiff Leon Richardson's Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 36), and Defendant Mancino's Reply, (ECF No. 38). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss is DENIED.
This case concerns allegations of racial discrimination and other racially-motivated misconduct that occurred during the culmination of Plaintiff's employment with Defendant HRHH Gaming Senior Mezz, LLC ("HRHH"). Plaintiff's employment with Defendant HRHH began in 2005, (First Am. Compl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 31), and continued until March 2012. (Id. at ¶ 12). At that time, another HRHH employee, Defendant Mancino, informed Plaintiff that his employment was being suspended pending an investigation into a suspected company policy violation. (Id. ). Despite Plaintiff's contentions that no policy violation occurred and that the policy Defendant Mancino accused him of violating did not even actually exist, (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13), Defendant HRHH terminated Plaintiff's employment "on or about April 1, 2012, " (Id. At ¶¶ 5, 9).
On October 18, 2013, Plaintiff-proceeding pro se -filed his original Complaint in this Court. (ECF No. 1). The original Complaint contained a Title VII racial discrimination claim, a wrongful discharge claim, and a punitive damages claim against Defendants HRHH and Mancino. (Compl. ¶¶ 16-32, ECF. No. 1). Defendant Mancino moved to dismiss all three claims against him pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), (ECF No. 8), and after a hearing, the Court granted the motion, (Minutes of Proceedings, ECF No. 28). The Court dismissed the punitive damages claim with prejudice, but dismissed the remaining two claims- Title VII racial discrimination and wrongful termination-without prejudice. (Id. ). Plaintiff then filed his First Amended Complaint ("FAC") on August 20, 2014, asserting claims of defamation and intentional interference with prospective economic advantage against Defendant Mancino. (FAC ¶¶ 53-73). Defendant Mancino now moves to dismiss these claims under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (ECF No. 32).
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Dismissal is appropriate under Rule 12(b)(6) where a pleader fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A pleading must give fair notice of a legally cognizable claim and the grounds on which it rests, and although a court must take all factual allegations as true, legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Accordingly, Rule 12(b)(6) requires "more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. This standard "asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has instructed "federal courts to liberally construe the inartful pleading' of pro se litigants." Eldridge v. Block, 832 F.2d 1132, 1137 (9th Cir. 1987).
According to Defendant Mancino, Plaintiff's defamation claim is barred by Nevada's two-year statute of limitations and therefore fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Mot. to Dism. 4:16-18). Plaintiff does not dispute that the statute of limitations has run, but instead argues that the defamation claim survives because it relates back to October 18, 2013-the date the original Complaint was filed. (Opp. 11:14-16).
Additionally, Defendant Mancino argues that the intentional interference with prospective economic advantage ("IIPEA") claim should be dismissed because it "suffers from the fatal defect of missing a third party to interfere with [Plaintiff's] employment relationship." (Reply 7:6-7). He further argues that dismissal is warranted because the allegations underlying the IIPEA claim do not involve a "strong public policy, " which is necessary to overcome Nevada's at-will employment rule. (Mot. to Dism. 8:7-9). Plaintiff refutes both arguments, stating that Defendant Mancino is a third party to the employment relationship between Plaintiff and HRHH, (Opp. 14:27-28), and that Defendant Mancino's public policy argument is inapposite because the IIEPA claim was brought against Defendant Mancino in his individual capacity. (Id. at 16:21-24). Plaintiff alternatively contends that Nevada's public policy against defamation is strong enough to constitute an actionable interference with prospective economic advantage in the at-will employment context. (Id. at 16:3-21).
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(1)(B), a claim initially set forth in an amended complaint relates back to the date of a prior filing if the claim "ar[ises] out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set out-or attempted to be set out-in the original pleading." A claim "arises out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence if it will likely be proved by the same kind of evidence offered in support of the original pleading." ASARCO, LLC v. Union P. R. Co., 765 F.3d 999, 1004 (9th Cir. 2014) (internal quotations omitted). Additionally, both the original complaint and the amended complaint must share "a common core of operative facts" in order to afford the defendant "fair notice of the transaction, occurrence, or conduct called into question." Id. (quoting Martell v. Trilogy Ltd., 872 F.2d 322, 325 (9th Cir. 1989)). Yet, in the Ninth Circuit, the relation back doctrine is to be "liberally applied." Id. (quoting Clipper Exxpress v. Rocky Mountain Motor Tariff Bureau, Inc., 690 F.2d 1240, 1259 n. 29 (9th Cir. 1982)). As explained below, the Court finds that the defamation claim relates back to the date the original Complaint was filed.
1. Common Core of Operative Facts
According to Defendant Mancino, the defamation claim does not relate back because the original Complaint failed to put him on notice "that Plaintiff was either pursuing or attempting to pursue a claim of defamation against him." (Mot. to Dism. 6:20-22). However, whether a defendant has fair notice of the transaction, occurrence, or conduct being called into question depends only on the commonality of the facts alleged in the initial and amended pleadings. ASARCO, LLC, 765 F.3d at 1004; see also Santana v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 686 F.2d 736, 737 (9th Cir. 1982) ("[A]n amendment which changes the legal theory on which an action initially was brought is of no consequence to the question of relation back ...