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Jason Lee Nieman v. Versuslaw

August 2, 2012

JASON LEE NIEMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
VERSUSLAW, INC., JOSEPH W. ACTON, YAHOO!, INC., GOOGLE INC., AND MICROSOFT, CORP., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sue E. Myerscough, U.S. District Judge:

E-FILED

Friday, 03 August, 2012 04:13:34 PM Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

OPINION

This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation (d/e 39) entered by Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal on June 13, 2012. Plaintiff filed "Plaintiff's Objections to the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation (In Favor of Dismissal of All Causes In This Action)" (Objections) (d/e 40) on June 14, 2012. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b).

The Report and Recommendation recommends granting Defendants' various motions to dismiss (see d/e 16, d/e 18, d/e 22, and d/e 27) and dismissing Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint in its entirety with respect to all Defendants. This Court reviews de novo any part of the Report and Recommendation that has been properly objected to. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). For the reasons set forth below, the Court overrules Plaintiff's Objections and adopts Judge Bernthal's Report and Recommendation.

BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint The operative complaint in this matter is Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint at Law (Second Amended Complaint). The Second Amended Complaint brings claims against the following Defendants: Microsoft Corp. (Microsoft); Versuslaw, Inc. (Versuslaw); Yahoo!, Inc. (Yahoo); Google, Inc. (Google); and Joseph W. Acton (Acton). In the Second Amended Complaint Plaintiff brings suit for an alleged violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981, in addition to several other federal and state law claims. The claims arise from the following facts that Plaintiff has alleged in his Second Amended Complaint.

Plaintiff is an insurance claims industry professional with over 20 years of experience. Between November 2009 and March 2011, Plaintiff was involved in litigation against his former employer, Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company (Nationwide) and several related defendants.

In approximately January 2009, Plaintiff discovered that certain Internet websites were linking copies of information related to the litigation to Plaintiff's name, such that a simple Internet browser search for his name would provide immediate results that referenced one or more of the filings or rulings in the active litigation. According to Plaintiff, rather than linking his name to significant rulings, such as appellate decisions or even trial court summary judgment rulings, the links included attachments to rulings on matters as common as a stipulated motion to quash a subpoena. Plaintiff has alleged that these references were occurring by way of paid legal search websites such as Lexis/Nexis.com, Justia.com, Leagle.com, and Versuslaw.com (and/or its related site, Findacase.com). These entities secure the case information and related documents by way of sites such as PACER and then "mirror" them onto the Internet by way of their sites and servers.

Between January 2009 and the date of filing this action, Plaintiff applied for one or more positions of employment. Plaintiff believes that the potential employers have performed Internet browser searches by way of Google.com, Yahoo.com, or Bing.com, and found documents related to litigation against his former employer Nationwide. Plaintiff also believes that the potential employers have used this information to disqualify him from candidacy for the applied position or have shared this information with others who have done so. In other words, Plaintiff alleges he "has been effectively 'blacklisted' as to employment opportunities due to the ease at which these references appear pursuant to a simple name search, and due to the unlawful acts of third parties who then use such information to unlawfully disqualify" his candidacy.

Plaintiff filed the Second Amended Complaint which brings the following claims against Defendants: (1) claims under the Illinois Human Rights Act; (2) commercial misappropriation; (3) violation of § 1981 of the Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1981); (4) violation of the Lanham Act; (5) intentional interference with current and prospective economic advantage; (6) unjust enrichment /civil conspiracy; and (7) violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

B. Defendants' Motions

Defendants have all brought Motions to Dismiss. See d/e 16, d/e 18, and d/e 27. Additionally, Defendants Microsoft and Yahoo have brought a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings on Counts III, IV, VIII, IX, and X of the Second Amended Complaint.*fn1 See d/e 22. All of the Defendants argue that Plaintiff's claims are barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). All Defendants also argue that, even apart from the question of whether the CDA bars Plaintiff's claims, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim for which relief can be granted.

C. Judge Bernthal's Report and Recommendation and Plaintiff's Objections Thereto

As stated, Judge Bernthal has recommended that Defendants' Motions d/e 16,18, 22, and 27 be granted for several reasons. First, Plaintiff's litigation against Nationwide is a matter of public record and the First Amendment creates a privilege to public matters contained in the public record. Second, Plaintiff's claims are barred by § 230 of the CDA (47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1)). Finally, the facts as Plaintiff has alleged them do not support Plaintiff's various statutory and common law claims.

On June 14, 2012, Plaintiff filed his Objections to the Report and Recommendation. Plaintiff argues that: (1) the First Amendment does not protect Defendants, (2) Section 230 of the CDA does not bar Plaintiff's claims, and (3) Judge Bernthal erred in concluding that Plaintiff failed to state any federal or state claims.

ANALYSIS

Under Rule 12(b)(6), dismissal is proper where a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). To state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a complaint must provide a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). That statement must be sufficient to provide the defendant with "fair notice" of the claim and its basis. Tamayo v. Blagojevich, 526 F.3d 1074, 1081 (7th Cir. 2008); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929, 940 (2007). This means that (1) "the complaint must describe the claim in sufficient detail to give the defendant 'fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests'" and

(2) its allegations must plausibly suggest that the plaintiff has a right to relief, raising that possibility above a "speculative level." EEOC v. Concentra Health Services, Inc., 496 F.3d 773, 776 (7th Cir.2007). While detailed factual allegations are not needed, a "formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965, 167 L.Ed.2d at 940. Conclusory allegations are "not entitled to be assumed true." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1951, 173 L.Ed.2d 868, 885 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007)). "In ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions, the court must treat all well-pleaded ...


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