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PAUL v. PREMIER ELEC. CONST. CO.

March 22, 1984

DAVID L. PAUL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PREMIER ELECTRICAL CONSTRUCTION COMPANY, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, WILLIAM J. TEMPLEMAN, AND MICHAEL F. HUGHES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bua, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM ORDER

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.

DISCUSSION

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 interest.

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).

I. The Libel Claims

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.

Chapski v. Copley Press, 92 Ill.2d 344, 352, 65 Ill.Dec. 884, 442 N.E.2d 195 (1982).

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 ...


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