United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Z. LEE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Patricia and Reginald Fields (“the Fields”) have
sued Defendants Nikita Jackson (“Jackson”) and
Absolutely Edible Cakes & Catering, LLC
(“Absolutely Edible”), alleging claims for
defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and
negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendants have
filed a motion for summary judgment. For the reasons provided
herein, the motion is granted in part and denied in part.
following facts are not in material dispute except where
otherwise noted. The Fields reside in Lake County, Illinois.
Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 1, ECF No. 31. Jackson
resides in Rowlett, Texas. Id. ¶ 2. She is the
sole member of Absolutely Edible, a Texas limited liability
company that offers catering services. See Id.
February 24, 2015, the Fields hired Jackson and Absolutely
Edible to cater their wedding reception in Illinois on July
18, 2015. See Id. ¶¶ 7-8. According to the
Fields, Jackson submitted a proposal to cater the reception
for $8, 027.89. Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 6,
ECF No. 38. The Fields then paid Jackson $5, 000 as a down
payment toward her services. Id. ¶ 7;
Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 10. The Fields claim
(and Defendants deny) that they later wired an additional $1,
500 to Jackson for these services. Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(C)
Stmt. ¶ 7; Defs.' Resp. Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(C)
Stmt. ¶ 7, ECF No. 41.
the wedding reception, according to the Fields, Jackson
presented them with an invoice billing them for extra
services costing $7, 021.71 more than they had previously
agreed upon. See Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) ¶
8. Patricia Fields (“Patricia”) challenged the
invoice, not only because of these additional charges, but
also on the ground that the invoice failed to account for $3,
000 of payments that the Fields had already made.
Id. ¶ 9.
around the date of the wedding, Patricia became pregnant.
See Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶¶ 35,
40. On September 3, 2015, however, Patricia miscarried.
Id. ¶ 41. According to Patricia's
obstetrician, the miscarriage occurred due to a hormonal
imbalance. Id. ¶¶ 41-42. The obstetrician
attests that undue stress could not have contributed to the
miscarriage. Id. ¶ 43.
September 18, 2015, Jackson began making social media posts
on the Internet about the Fields' failure to pay in full
for her catering services. Id. ¶¶
11-14. In one post on YouTube, for example,
Jackson uploaded a video about the Fields and wrote in the
video caption: “Patricia Fields is a con artist. She
stole from me by writing checks totalling $4500.”
See Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt., Ex. C, at 1.
In another post, Jackson wrote: “Bitch Patricia Fields
[d]idn't [h]ave my money. BRIDE stole from me. $4500 in
nsf checks.” Id. at 2. The Fields characterize
Jackson's Internet posts as accusing Patricia of
committing criminal acts. Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt.
around December 2015, Patricia became an employee at PM
Solutions. See Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶
17; Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt., Ex. 1, Patricia Aff.
¶ 6. As an employee of PM Solutions, Patricia was
assigned to perform consulting work for a company called CF
Industries. Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 17.
According to Defendants, Patricia was assigned to work for CF
Industries from January 4, 2016, until February 12, 2016, at
which time she was discharged from her employment at PM
Solutions due to a lack of work. Id. ¶¶
18, 20. According to the Fields, however, an upper-level
employee told Patricia that she was discharged not because of
a lack of work, but instead because of Jackson's Internet
posts about the Fields' failure to pay for her catering
services. See Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(B) Stmt.
¶¶ 18, 20 (citing Patricia Aff. ¶ 6).
in early 2016, Patricia was being considered for a position
at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. See
Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 23. Her application was
eventually declined. Id. ¶ 30. John Bouton, a
recruiter at the Federal Reserve Bank, testified that he was
not aware of Jackson's Internet posts, although he
conceded that he was not the final decision-maker and others
at the Federal Reserve thought that Patricia was not a good
“fit” for the team, even though she satisfied the
job requirements. See Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(B)
Stmt. ¶ 30.
February 23, 2016, Patricia was arrested and charged with
theft of services based upon her failure to pay Jackson.
Id. ¶ 15; Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶
The charges were dismissed with prejudice on July 5, 2016.
Pls.' LR 56.1(b)(3)(C) Stmt. ¶ 3. In the meantime,
ABC 7 News published news reports of Patricia's arrest.
Defs.' LR 56.1(a)(3) Stmt. ¶ 16.
upon these events, the Fields have sued Defendants for
intentional defamation (Count I), negligent defamation (Count
II), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count
III), and negligent infliction of emotional distress (Count
IV). Defendants have moved for summary judgment with regard
to all claims.
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a);accordShell v.
Smith,789 F.3d 715, 717 (7th Cir. 2015). To survive
summary judgment, the nonmoving party must “do more
than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to
the material facts, ” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co.
v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986), and
instead must “establish some genuine issue for trial
such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict in her
favor, ” Gordon v. FedEx Freight, Inc., 674
F.3d 769, 772-73 (7th Cir. 2012). In reviewing a motion for
summary judgment, the Court gives the nonmoving party
“the benefit of conflicts in the evidence and
reasonable inferences that could be drawn from it.”