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

October 17, 2011


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


On September 13, 2011, the Court granted Defendant CBS Broadcasting, Inc.'s ("CBS") summary judgment motion and dismissed this lawsuit in its entirety. Before the Court is Plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Because the Court did not commit a manifest error of fact or law in its September 13, 2011 Memorandum, Opinion, and Order, the Court, in its discretion, denies Plaintiffs' reconsideration motion. See Oto v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 224 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2000) ("A 'manifest error' is not demonstrated by the disappointment of the losing party," instead it "is the 'wholesale disregard, misapplication, or failure to recognize controlling precedent.'").


Rule 59(e) permits parties to file, within twenty-eight days of the entry of judgment, a motion to alter or amend the judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e). Motions under Rule 59(e) serve the limited function of allowing the Court to correct manifest errors of law or fact or consider newly discovered material evidence. See Seng-Tiong Ho v. Taflove, 648 F.3d 489, 505 (7th Cir. 2011); United States v. Resnick, 594 F.3d 562, 568 (7th Cir. 2010). Rule 59(e) "does not provide a vehicle for a party to undo its own procedural failures" or "introduce new or advance arguments that could and should have been presented to the district court prior to the judgment." Resnick, 594 F.3d at 568 (citation omitted); see also County of McHenry v. Insurance Co. of the West, 438 F.3d 813, 819 (7th Cir. 2006). Whether to grant a Rule 59(e) motion "is entrusted to the sound judgment of the district court." Matter of Prince, 85 F.3d 314, 324 (7th Cir. 1996); see also Resnick, 594 F.3d at 568 (appellate court reviews denial of Rule 59(e) motion for abuse of discretion).


In their First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs Jill and Robert Webb, on their own and as parents and next friends of their minor children, alleged Illinois common law claims of intrusion upon seclusion (Count I) and intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count II) against CBS. After CBS filed its motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs responded to both the summary judgment motion and CBS's Local Rule 56.1(a)(3) Statement of Facts. As the Court explained in its September 13, 2011, Memorandum, Opinion, and Order, many of Plaintiffs' Local Rule 56.1(b)(3)(B) Responses did not meet the local rules' requirements, and thus the Court deemed many of CBS's facts as true for purposes its summary judgment motion. See, e.g., ¶¶ 30-32, 37-30, 44-45.


Plaintiffs Jill and Robert Webb, who are residents of Iowa, were present with their minor children at the Plainfield, Illinois home of Jill Webb's brother, Craig Stebic, on the day of the events giving rise to this lawsuit, July 6, 2007. Defendant CBS is a corporation that owns and operates Chicago television station WBBM. Former Defendant Tracy Reardon is Craig Stebic's neighbor.

Craig Stebic and his wife, Lisa Stebic, were divorcing when Lisa disappeared from their Plainfield home on April 30, 2007. Lisa Stebic's disappearance and the investigation of her disappearance were the focus of wide-spread public attention. At some point in July 2007, local police authorities named Craig Stebic as a person of interest in their investigation of his wife's disappearance. Prior to July 6, 2007, law enforcement authorities closely monitored the Stebics' house by placing two video cameras on utility poles that focused on the Stebics' house and backyard and recorded activities in that area.

Also prior to July 6, 2007, numerous news organizations dispatched reporters and videographers to the Stebics' home to record activities taking place there. One such reporter, who worked for Chicago's NBC station WMAQ, Amy Jacobson, made efforts to find out what happened to Lisa Stebic and quickly established a rapport with Jill and Robert Webb. Prior to July 6, 2007, Jacobson had spoken with Craig Stebic and Jill Webb and had been to the Stebics' home. Jill Webb and Craig Stebic together telephoned Jacobson and invited her to visit the Stebics' home on Friday, July 6, 2007. Jacobson, who testified that she had otherwise planned to take her children to a community swimming club the morning of July 6, 2007, instead took her children to the Stebics' house, where she and her children, the Webbs and their children, and Craig Stebic proceeded to interact in and around the swimming pool in the Stebics' backyard. Jacobson visited the Stebics' house in her capacity as a television news reporter covering the story.

A community search for Lisa Stebic was planned for July 7, 2007. On July 6, 2007, Michael Puccinelli, a CBS reporter at Chicago television station WBBM, was assigned to prepare a news report on the July 7, 2007 search. In the morning of July 6, 2007, Nathan DeLack, a CBS employee and videographer at WBBM, drove Puccinelli to Plainfield. Upon arriving in Plainfield, Puccinelli -- who hoped to interview a Stebic family member about the next day's community search for Lisa Stebic -- rang the bell at the Stebics' front door, but Robert Webb told him that the family did not wish to speak to him.

After Robert Webb turned Puccinelli away from the Stebic house, DeLack and Puccinelli drove around the corner to the home occupied by Reardon and William Alstrom, to whom Puccinelli had previously spoken. Alstrom invited Puccinelli into the house to talk. Puccinelli testified that from Reardon's home, he could see that people were gathered in the Stebics' backyard. Puccinelli further testified that he was surprised to see that Craig Stebic had guests at his house the day before the search for his missing wife.

Thereafter, Puccinelli asked DeLack to videotape the events in the Stebics' backyard because he thought the events were newsworthy. Alstrom then gave DeLack and Puccinelli permission to bring the video camera -- which had a zoom lens -- into the Alstrom/Reardon home and to set up the camera in front of one of the kitchen windows on the first floor. In the subsequent videotape, Craig Stebic, Jacobson, the Webbs, and the children are seen around the Stebics' swimming pool, as well as passing through a sliding glass door between the house and the pool deck. CBS aired a version of the videotape on a CBS broadcast on July 10, 2007.

THE COURT'S SUMMARY JUDGMENT RULING I Count I -- Intrusion Upon Seclusion Due to the relevant statute of limitations, Plaintiffs' intrusion upon seclusion claim was limited to the act of the videotaping itself, and not the subsequent publication, namely, the July 10, 2007 broadcast on CBS. Under Illinois law, the common law claim of intrusion upon seclusion -- which is a form of an invasion of privacy claim -- includes the following elements: "(1) an unauthorized intrusion into seclusion; (2) the intrusion would be highly offensive to a reasonable person; (3) the matter intruded upon was private; and (4) the ...

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