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Bezu v. Bank of America, N.A.

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

November 20, 2015

MESFIN BEZU, Plaintiff,
v.
BANK OF AMERICA, N.A., Defendant

          Mesfin Bezu, Plaintiff, Pro se, Alexandria, VA.

         For Bank of America, N.A., Defendant: Todd Stephen Rouse, LEAD ATTORNEY, John Edward Thomas, Jr., McGuireWoods LLP (McLean), McLean, VA.

          OPINION

         CLAUDE M. HILTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         On July 25, 2014, Plaintiff filed this action against Defendant in the Fairfax County Circuit Court, alleging two counts of defamation per se arising out of statements that Plaintiff contends were made to him and others during and after his employment. On August 28, 2014, Defendant timely removed this case to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction. Defendant moved to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim based on lack of specificity, lack of publication, and privilege. Plaintiff opposed the dismissal; Defendant replied; and on October 27, 2014, this Court dismissed Plaintiff's Complaint with leave to amend.

         On November 12, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint, in which he attempted to set forth more specifically the allegations against Defendant. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint contains three counts: Count I: " Negligence - Defamation Per Se" ; Count II: " Intentional or Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress Defamation Per Se"; and Count III: " Malice."

         As of July 1, 2013, Plaintiff was a Personal Banker at Defendant's Arlington Court House Banking Center in Arlington, Virginia. On July 26, 2013, Defendant terminated Plaintiff's employment. Edward Roncoroni, Plaintiff's Consumer Market Manager, and Jerry Lotito, another Consumer Market Manager, communicated the termination decision to Plaintiff. Following the termination meeting, Roncoroni reported to Defendant's Protective Services Department that Plaintiff made threatening statements during the meeting, such as, " you will pay for this" and " the company will pay for this." Later that day, Protective Services received a report that Plaintiff returned to the Arlington Court House Banking Center to obtain customer information. Plaintiff was told that the police would be called if he did not leave.

         On July 27, 2013, Plaintiff called Protective Services to request permission to return to the Arlington Court House Banking Center to clear out his safe deposit box. Protective Services employee Maggie Cash reported that when she mentioned Roncoroni's name, Plaintiff stated that he could " punch him in the face." Plaintiff was permitted to visit the banking center to retrieve items from his safe deposit box that day.

         Michael Bergbauer, one of Defendant's Protective Services managers, telephoned Plaintiff on July 29 to discuss the events of July 27. On July 30, Plaintiff sent a message to an email address for Brian Moynihan, CEO of Defendant, copying other Bank executives. The email came from mesfin@mybankofamericastory.com and attached a letter threatening to sue Defendant.

         On August 1, 2013, Defendant sent Plaintiff letters notifying him that his accounts were to be closed. On August 13, Messay Degefu, a Personal Banker at Defendant's Lake Barcroft Banking Center, reported to Protective Services that Plaintiff requested a copy of a check that Plaintiff cashed, then requested that the teller photograph the check. On August 14, Defendant sent Plaintiff a letter notifying him that his safe deposit box account would be closed.

         On August 16, 2013, Hilda Aparicio, a Bank employee, reported to Protective Services that Plaintiff visited the Lake Barcroft Banking Center again. Aparicio reported that Plaintiff asked about Defendant's procedures and attempted to cash a stale money order from 2010. The same day, Alfredo Piedrahita, Banking Center Manager at the Arlington Main Banking Center, reported to Protective Services that Plaintiff went to the Arlington Main Banking Center, asked about the security guard's hours, and attempted to cash a stale money order from 2010.

         On August 22, 2013, Defendant wrote to Plaintiff informing him that it would no longer conduct business with him and that he was prohibited from entering or remaining on Defendant's property.

         On August 26, 2013, Chimedregzen Altandush, an employee at Plaintiff's former Banking Center, reported to Protective Services that she observed Plaintiff walking around outside the Banking Center. There were internal communications among Bank employees regarding the reports to corporate security about Plaintiff's actions following his termination and the decisions to close Plaintiff's accounts and to no longer do business with Plaintiff.

         Abiy Emiru, Plaintiff's friend and fellow church member, testified that at some point during the summer of 2013 he went to the Arlington Court House Banking Center to visit Plaintiff. Emiru was approached by a female employee, whom he told that he was looking for Plaintiff. According to Emiru, the employee said, " [h]e is not working anymore here." When Emiru asked what she meant, she ...


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