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Jill and Robert Webb, In Their Own Proper Persons, and As Parents v. Cbs Broadcasting

March 8, 2011

JILL AND ROBERT WEBB, IN THEIR OWN PROPER PERSONS, AND AS PARENTS AND NEXT FRIENDS OF THEIR MINOR CHILDREN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CBS BROADCASTING, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Amy J. St. Eve, District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

In their First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs Jill and Robert Webb, on their own and as parents and next friends of their minor children, filed the present lawsuit against Defendants CBS Broadcasting, Inc. ("CBS") and Tracy Reardon, an individual, alleging common law claims of intrusion upon seclusion (Count I) and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count II) based on the Court's diversity jurisdiction. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a). Since January 26, 2010, Magistrate Judge Brown has supervised discovery in this matter and has ruled on numerous discovery motions. On October 29, 2010, the Executive Committee for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois reassigned this lawsuit to the Court based on Judge Andersen's retirement from the bench. Before the Court are Plaintiffs' motions to reconsider two of Judge Brown's discovery rulings dated February 3, 2011 and February 17, 2011 pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a). For the following reasons, the Court denies Plaintiffs' motions for reconsideration.

BACKGROUND

In their First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that in late June and early July 2007 there was extensive media coverage of "the Lisa Stebic case" because Lisa Stebic had mysteriously disappeared from her home on April 30, 2007. (R. 30, First Am. Compl. ¶ 9.) Plaintiffs further allege that Lisa Stebic was married to Craig Stebic and that the couple was in the process of divorcing at the time of her disappearance. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11.) Plaintiff Jill Webb is the sister of Craig Stebic. (Id. ¶ 12.)

Plaintiffs further allege that the National Broadcast Company ("NBC") and NBC 5 News assigned Amy Jacobson to investigate and report on the Lisa Stebic case. (Id. ¶ 13.) Plaintiffs Jill and Robert Webb allege that they quickly established a rapport with Jacobson and that Jacobson became a reporter that both families trusted because of her tireless efforts to find out what happened to Lisa Stebic. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 15.) Plaintiffs allege that a reporter with Defendant CBS, Michael Puccinelli, who is no longer a named Defendant to this lawsuit, had alienated Craig Stebic and Lisa Stebic's family and that they did not trust him. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiffs further allege that Puccinelli aired a story on July 5, 2007 on CBS that recklessly and incorrectly named Craig Stebic as "a person of interest" in the investigation of his wife's disappearance. (Id. ¶ 18.) Indeed, it was not until July 14, 2007 that the authorities named Craig Stebic as "a person of interest" in the investigation of his wife's disappearance. (Id. ¶ 19.)

On July 6, 2007, Plaintiffs and Craig Stebic invited Jacobson to Stebic's house to discuss the case. (Id. ¶ 21.) Plaintiffs allege that Jacobson had visited the Stebic home on prior occasions to discuss the case. (Id. ¶ 22.) Further, Plaintiffs assert that at no time did Plaintiffs Jill and Robert Webb or Craig Stebic represent that their meeting was going to be an "adult pool party" or in any way portray the purpose of the meeting as being "social." (Id. ¶ 23.) Also, Plaintiffs allege that Puccinelli had never received a similar invitation to the Stebic household because the family did not trust him. (Id. ¶ 24.)

Meanwhile, Plaintiffs maintain that CBS received a tip from Defendant Tracy Reardon that Jacobson was at the Stebic house in the backyard with her children. (Id. ¶ 25.) Plaintiffs also allege that Reardon began shooting a videotape of Plaintiffs, their minor children, Craig Stebic, and Jacobson and her minor children in the Stebic's backyard. (Id. ¶¶ 26, 37.) Plaintiffs contend that the Stebic's backyard was only visible through a telephoto lens from the upstairs bedroom window of Reardon's home, which was presumably near the Stebic home. (Id. ¶ 39.) Plaintiffs also maintain that the video footage showing Plaintiffs, their minor children, Craig Stebic, Jacobson and her minor children inside the patio door of the Stebic house, in the backyard, or near the swimming pool could not have been taken by or in any area accessible to the public because the Stebic property was surrounded by a privacy fence. (Id. ¶ 33.) Moreover, Plaintiffs assert that no one authorized the videotaping. (Id. ¶¶ 34, 45.)

Thereafter, Puccinelli and his CBS cameraman went to the home of Reardon and she gave them the videotape. (Id. ¶ 35.) On July 10, 2007, the local CBS station aired an edited version of the videotape. (Id. ¶ 39.) Plaintiffs assert that the accompanying news story recklessly suggested that Jacobson had made a social visit to the Stebic household and implied that Craig Stebic and Jacobson were having an affair and that Plaintiffs condoned the affair. (Id.

¶¶ 40, 41.) Plaintiffs also allege that CBS placed raw footage of the videotape on the Internet and on CBS's homepage. (Id. ¶¶ 42, 43.)

Amy Jacobson filed a separate lawsuit against CBS based on the July 2007 videotape and its publication, which is presently in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. See Jacobson v. CBS Broadcasting, Inc., No. 2008-L-007331 ("Jacobson case").

LEGAL STANDARD

A "district court's review of any discovery-related decisions made by the magistrate judge is governed by Rule 72(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." Weeks v. Samsung Heavy Indus. Co., Ltd., 126 F.3d 926, 943 (7th Cir. 1997). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a), a district judge may set aside a magistrate judge's ruling on a non-dispositive motion if the order is clearly erroneous or contrary to law. See id.; see also Schur v. L.A. Weight Loss Centers, Inc., 577 F.3d 752, 760 (7th Cir. 2009). "The clear error standard means that the district court can overturn the magistrate judge's ruling only if the district court is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made." Weeks, 126 F.3d at 943; see also Anderson v. City of Bessemer City, N.C., 470 U.S. 564, 573, 105 S.Ct. 1504, 84 L.Ed.2d 518 (1985). In general, under the clearly erroneous standard, if there are two permissible views of the facts, a district court's choice between them cannot be clearly erroneous. See Anderson, 470 U.S. at 574; Dexia Credit Local v. Rogan, 629 F.3d 612, 628 (7th Cir. 2010).

ANALYSIS

At some point prior to Plaintiffs' counsel taking four depositions of CBS employees in August 2010, Plaintiffs' counsel came into possession of certain documents that CBS had produced to the plaintiff in the Jacobson case (hereinafter "Jacobson documents"). (R. 179, 1/13/11, Mem., Op., & Order, at 4.) These documents were marked "confidential" and were Bates-stamped with "CBS 2 Jacobson" followed by numbers 1 through 443. (Id.) The documents, which included e-mails, memoranda, and handwritten notes, were subject to a protective order in the Jacobson state court case. (Id.) In a January 13, 2011, Memorandum, Opinion, and Order, Judge Brown concluded that Plaintiffs' counsel had obtained the Jacobson documents in violation of the protective order filed in the Jacobson case. (Id. at 11, 19-20.) Judge Brown then conducted an in camera review of the 443 documents to determine whether any of these documents were within the scope of discovery in the present matter. (Id. at 20.) After Judge Brown reviewed the Jacobson documents in camera, she directed CBS to produce two pages of handwritten notes and to "un-redact" a sentence of an e-mail because these ...


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