The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bua, District Judge.
Plaintiff David L. Paul filed the instant lawsuit by way of
a four-count complaint alleging that defendants defamed him
and tortiously interfered with his business relationships by
filing a notice and claim for mechanics lien against him.
Jurisdiction over the suit is based on diversity of
citizenship, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a).
Defendants have moved to dismiss the suit under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). For the reasons stated herein, defendants' motion to
dismiss is granted.
Defendant Premier is an Illinois corporation primarily
engaged in the electrical construction business. Defendants
Templeman and Hughes are officers of the corporation.
Plaintiff is the president of Am Mart Realty Corporation, a
New York corporation in which Am Mart Realty Associates is a
general partner. Am Mart Realty Associates is a limited
partnership in which 666 Associates, also a limited
partnership, is the general partner. 666 Associates holds a
beneficial interest in a trust in which the American National
Bank is the record owner of certain Chicago, Illinois real
estate located at 666 North Lake Shore Drive which forms the
subject of this lawsuit.
In December, 1980, 666 Associates and Morse/Diesel, Inc.
entered into an agreement under which Morse/Diesel became the
general contractor for the improvement of the real estate.
Thereafter, in January, 1981, Morse/Diesel engaged Premier as
a subcontractor to supply labor and materials for certain
electrical work required under the general contract.
Following the completion of Premier's work, Morse/Diesel
failed to pay Premier $626,280 due under the subcontract. In
order to secure this claim, Premier filed a
notice and claim for mechanics lien with the Recorder of Deeds
in Cook County, Illinois. As required by Illinois law, the
notice of lien was filed against the record owner of the
property, American National Bank, and those persons, including
plaintiff, whom Premier believed might have an ownership
interest in the property. Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 82 ¶ 24 (1983).
Notice of the lien was thereafter sent by certified mail to
every owner and mortgagee of the property. Subsequently,
plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit in the United States
District Court for the Southern District of New York. The case
was transferred to the Northern District of Illinois after
Judge Morris E. Lasker of the Southern District of New York
ruled that there was no personal jurisdiction over the
defendants in that district, 576 F. Supp. 384.
Plaintiff contends that he has no legal or equitable
ownership in the subject property and that he was damaged by
defendants' publication of the Mechanics Lien Claim. Counts I
and II of the complaint seek damages and injunctive relief,
respectively, for libel, while Count III seeks damages for the
acts of defendants which have allegedly interfered with
plaintiff's current and future business relationships. Count
IV is also a tortious interference claim by which plaintiff
seeks damages based on the allegation that the acts of
defendants have jeopardized the purchase of a Florida bank by
a Massachusetts company in which plaintiff holds a controlling
Because this case is before the Court under diversity
jurisdiction, the law of Illinois applies and is primarily
that argued by the parties. Fleck Bros. Co. v. Sullivan,
385 F.2d 223 (7th Cir. 1967); Cantrell v. American Broadcasting
Companies, Inc., 529 F. Supp. 746, 751-752 (N.D.Ill. 1981).
Nevertheless, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(g) applies
insofar as the required specificity of the allegations is
concerned. Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. v. Jacobson,
713 F.2d 262 (7th Cir. 1983).
In Illinois the law of libel is controlled by the rule of
innocent construction which requires that, where reasonable,
statements must be innocently construed. According to the
Illinois Supreme Court,
[A] written or oral statement is to be considered
in context, with the words and the implications
therefrom, given their natural and obvious
meaning; if so construed the statement may
reasonably be innocently interpreted . . . it
cannot be actionable per se.
According to the Illinois Supreme Court, the question of
whether a statement may reasonably be innocently construed is
initially a question of law; only if it is not capable of
reasonably being innocently construed may the question be
given to the finder of ...