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Seaman v. Iac/Interactivecorp, Inc.

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

April 3, 2019

DAVID SEAMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
IAC/INTERACTIVECORP, INC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT E. PAYNE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the MOTION TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS IAC/INTERACTIVECORP AND THE DAILY BEAST COMPANY LLC FOR IMPROPER VENUE AND FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (ECF No. 13) and the DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE (ECF No. 21) . For the following reasons, the Court will grant DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE (ECF No. 21) and the case will be transferred to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ("SDNY") . The Court will deny the MOTION TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS IAC/INTERACTIVECORP AND THE DAILY BEAST COMPANY LLC FOR IMPROPER VENUE AND FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (ECF No. 13) as it pertains to improper venue as moot, and leave consideration of the MOTION TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS IAC/INTERACTIVECORP AND THE DAILY BEAST COMPANY LLC FOR IMPROPER VENUE AND FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (ECF No. 13) as it pertains to failure to state a claim to the SDNY.

         BACKGROUND

         David Seaman ("Seaman") filed this action against IAC/InterActiveCorp, Inc. ("IAC") and The Daily Beast Company, LLC ("Daily Beast") (hereinafter referred to as "the Defendants") alleging defamation per se (Count I), insulting words (Count II), unauthorized use of name and picture in violation of Va. Code § 8.01-40 (Count III), and permanent injunction (Count IV).[1] See generally Compl. (ECF No. 1); id. ¶¶ 23-43. Seaman's claims arise out of an article published by the Daily Beast on March 24, 2017.

         I. Factual Background

         IAC is a public "e-commerce media company" incorporated in Delaware with its principal place of business in New York.[2] Id. ¶ 2. The Daily Beast, an online news and entertainment source, is a limited liability company organized under Delaware law with "headquarters" in New York, West Hollywood, the District of Columbia, and Chicago. Id. ¶ 3. "IAC is the sole member of the Daily Beast." Id.

         Seaman is a 32-year-old resident of the District of Columbia. Id. ¶ 1. He alleges that he is a "journalist, investigative reporter, researcher, pundit, author and publisher" who "has reported on matters of great public concern, including #pedogate[3]- child sex trafficking, ritualistic murder, torture, kidnapping, rape, child sex slavery, and the global network of child sex traffickers and pedophile rings for rich and powerful people in the elite ruling classes, Hollywood and the entertainment industry." Id. Because of his reporting, he alleges that he has been censored by online entities such as YouTube and "attacked by left-wing media giants, such as IAC/Daily Beast." Id.

         Seaman's claims against the Defendants arise out of an article written by Jennings Brown and published in the Daily Beast on March 24, 2017. Id. ¶ 11; ECF No. 14, Ex. A (article). That article, titled "The Self-Proclaimed 'Publicity Whore' and Fired Jezebel Intern Running Point on Pizzagate," allegedly contained false and defamatory statements about Seaman and his role in Pizzagate/Pedogate. Compl. ¶¶ 11-12. Seaman characterizes the article as a "hit piece" against him, id. ¶ 16, and alleges that it was shared and republished by the Daily Beast and others on the Internet. Id. ¶¶ 13-18. The "sole purpose" of the article, Seaman alleges, "was to further Defendants' predetermined agenda: to protect the Clintons, John Podesta, Tony Podesta and others suspected of child sex trafficking and pedophilia, to discredit David, and to distract from the important mission of investigating and exposing #pedogate." Id. ¶ 20.

         Seaman alleges that IAC and the Daily Beast are subject to both general and specific personal jurisdiction in Virginia. Id. ¶ 7. The Defendants do not deny that they are subject to personal jurisdiction in Virginia.

         II. Procedural Background

         In June 2018, Seaman filed the COMPLAINT against the Defendants (and against Jennings Brown), asserting defamation per se, insulting words, unauthorized use of name and picture in violation of Va. Code § 8.01-40, and permanent injunction. See Compl. ¶¶ 23-43 (ECF No. 1). Thereafter, the Defendants filed the MOTION TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS IAC/INTERACTIVECORP AND THE DAILY BEAST COMPANY LLC FOR IMPROPER VENUE AND FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (ECF No. 13) . On the same day that he filed his MEMORANDUM IN OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS (ECF No. 19), Seaman also filed his NOTICE OF DISMISSAL OF CLAIMS AGAINST DEFENDANT, JENNINGS BROWN, ONLY (ECF No. 18).

         Because Seaman's dismissal of Brown appeared to correct the venue issue, see ECF No. 20 at 2, the Defendants then filed DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE (ECF No. 21) in which they seek a transfer to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ("SDNY"). ECF No. 21 at 1. Seaman opposes both motions. See generally ECF Nos. 19, 23.

         Both motions have been fully briefed and the matter is ripe for decision.

         DISCUSSION

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court concludes that this case has insufficient connection to Virginia or the Eastern District of Virginia ("EDVA") to warrant continuation of the action here, and that it is appropriate to transfer the case to the SDNY. Accordingly, the DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE (ECF No. 21) will be granted. Further, as set forth below, the MOTION TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS IAC/INTERACTIVECORP AND THE DAILY BEAST COMPANY LLC FOR IMPROPER VENUE AND FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (ECF No. 13) will be denied, as moot, insofar as it seeks dismissal for lack of proper venue. The challenge to the Complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) should be decided by the transferee court.

         I. MOTION TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS IAC/INTERACTIVECORP AND THE DAILY BEAST COMPANY LLC FOR IMPROPER VENUE AND FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (ECF NO. 13)

         Before proceeding to the DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER VENUE (ECF No. 21), the Court briefly addresses the MOTION TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS IAC/INTERACTIVECORP AND THE DAILY BEAST COMPANY LLC FOR IMPROPER VENUE AND FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (ECF No. 13). In that motion, the Defendants argue that venue is improper in this district because: (1) "not all defendants reside in Virginia"; (2) a "substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim" did not occur in the Eastern District of Virginia or Richmond division; and (3) the catch-all venue provision does not apply because venue is proper elsewhere. ECF No. 14 at 9-10; 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) (1)-(3) .

         The Complaint, as originally filed, presented a serious question as to whether the EDVA is a proper venue for Seaman's action. In the face of the Defendants' arguments, Seaman dismissed Jennings Brown as a defendant in the action. See ECF No. 18. Now, as both parties agree, venue in this district is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1) because both IAC and the Daily Beast "reside" in Virginia. Entities "with the capacity to sue and be sued in [their] common name[s] under applicable law, whether or not incorporated. . .reside, if a defendant, in any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to the civil action in question." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). IAC and the Daily Beast have not raised a personal jurisdiction challenge, [4] see ECF No. 24 at 5 n.5 (noting that they did not raise personal jurisdiction to avoid "inevitable jurisdictional discovery"), and concede that venue is now proper under § 1391(b)(1). See ECF No. 20 at 1-2 ("Seaman has now dismissed Brown. . .to come within 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1).").

         Accordingly, the MOTION TO DISMISS BY DEFENDANTS IAC/INTERACTIVECORP AND THE DAILY BEAST COMPANY LLC FOR IMPROPER VENUE AND FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM (ECF No. 13) will be denied insofar as it pertains to improper venue.

         And because, as set forth below, the case must be transferred, it is appropriate that this Court not consider the Defendants' request for dismissal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. See U.S.A. ex rel. Advance Concrete, LLC v. T.H.R. Enterprises, Inc., No. 2:15cv477, 2016 WL 3002408, *5 (E.D. Va. May 19, 2016) ("[B]ecause the Court has ordered this case transferred, it declines to rule on the Defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) Motions to Dismiss, as the transferee court is the more appropriate forum to address those Motions.").

         II. Transfer Under 28 U.S.C. ยง ...


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