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Lozier v. Quincy University Corp.

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

June 26, 2019

DANIEL R. LOZIER, II, Plaintiff,
v.
QUINCY UNIVERSITY CORPORATION and BRIAN HOLZGRAFE, Defendants.

          OPINION

          SUE E. MYERSCOUGH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This cause is before the Court on the Motion for Leave to File Counterclaims Against Plaintiff and to File Third-Party Complaint Against Cindy Lozier (d/e 45) filed by Defendant Brian Holzgrafe. The Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART. The Court grants Holzgrafe leave to amend his Answer to add counterclaims for defamation and false light/invasion of privacy against Plaintiff. The Court denies Holzgrafe leave to file a third-party complaint against Cindy Lozier.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In April 2018, Plaintiff, Daniel R. Lozier II, filed a twelve-count Complaint against Quincy University Corporation; Brian Holzgrafe, the Head Tennis Coach, and other administrators at the University. Plaintiff alleged violations of federal and state law arising out of the allegedly hostile and retaliatory responses by defendants to Plaintiff's participation in an April 2017 Title IX investigation into sexual harassment allegations against Holzgrafe. Following a motion to dismiss, three claims remain against Holzgrafe: (1) Count III, intentional infliction of emotional distress, alleging that Holzgrafe engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct toward Plaintiff; (2) Count VIII, public disclosure of private facts, alleging that Holzgrafe communicated Plaintiff's personal and confidential medical information to other members of the tennis program; and (3) Count IX, false light, alleging Holzgrafe falsely indicated that Plaintiff was the source of the information that resulted in the Title IX investigation.[1]

         On March 8, 2019, Holzgrafe filed an Answer and Affirmative Defenses (d/e 34). On May 3, 2019, Holzgrafe filed a Motion for Leave to File Counterclaims Against Plaintiff and to File Third-Party Complaint Against Cindy Lozier (d/e 45). Holzgrafe seeks leave to bring defamation and false light/invasion of privacy claims against Plaintiff and his mother, Cindy Lozier, that arise out of the same transaction or occurrence or same case or controversy that is the subject of Plaintiff's claim. Holzgrafe asserts that the Court has supplemental jurisdiction of the claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1367.

         The proposed defamation claims allege that, in early April 2017, Plaintiff knowingly and intentionally made false allegations against Holzgrafe to Plaintiff's mother, Cindy Lozier, and at least two student-athletes. Holzgrafe alleges that Plaintiff falsely stated that Holzgrafe had sexual relations with a female student tennis player, that another female student tennis player left the program because of inappropriate advances made by Holzgrafe, and that Holzgrafe had a history of sexual misconduct with other female tennis players. On or about April 8, 2017, Cindy Lozier repeated the false statements to one or more other Quincy University student tennis players and other tennis players. Cindy Lozier also claimed that Holzgrafe would be out as Head Tennis Coach within two weeks.

         The false light/invasion of privacy claims allege that Plaintiff's and Cindy Lozier's actions of publishing false statements put Holzgrafe in a false light in the public and his profession as an adulterer and predator of young women under his charge as Head Tennis Coach at Quincy University. See proposed Counterclaim against Plaintiff (d/e 45-1); proposed Third Party Complaint against Cindy Lozier (d/e 45-2).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. The Court Grants Defendant Holzgrafe Leave to Amend his Answer and Assert the Counterclaims Against Plaintiff

         Holzgrafe seeks leave to file the defamation and false light/invasion of privacy counterclaims against Plaintiff. The proposed counterclaim specifically states that the claims are not barred by the applicable statute of limitations pursuant to 735 ILCS 5/13-207, the Illinois savings provision.

         Rule 13(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading must state any counterclaim the pleader has against the opposing party if the claim arises out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject of the opposing party's claim and does not require adding another party over whom the court cannot acquire jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 13(a). Leave to amend a pleading to add a counterclaim is governed by Rule 15 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. See McCoy v. Iberdrola Renewables, Inc., 760 F.3d 674, 684 (7th Cir. 2014) (applying Rule 15 to review the denial of a motion for leave to amend third-party counterclaims); Fed.R.Civ.P. 15, Advisory Committee Notes, 2009 Amendment (“Abrogation of Rule 13(f) establishes Rule 15 as the sole rule governing the amendment of a pleading to add a counterclaim.”).

         Leave should be freely given when justice so requires. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). A court may deny leave for various reasons, including futility, undue delay, and prejudice. See Kreg Therapeutics, Inc. v. VitalGo, Inc., 919 F.3d 405, 417 (7th Cir. 2019); McCoy, 760 F.3d at 684, 687 (also noting that the underlying concern with undue delay “is the prejudice to the defendant rather than simple passage of time”).

         Plaintiff objects to Holzgrafe's motion for leave to file the counterclaims. Plaintiff argues that the counterclaims are futile because the claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Plaintiff also asserts that Holzgrafe failed to timely assert his counterclaims and granting leave would be unfair to Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff first argues that Holzgrafe's allegations make it clear that the counterclaims are barred by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to defamation and false light claims. 735 ILCS 5/13-201 (“Actions for slander, libel or of matter violating the right to privacy, shall be commenced within one year next after the cause of action accrued.”); Ludlow v. Northwestern Univ., 79 F.Supp.3d 824, 841 (N.D. Ill. 2015) (noting that one-year statute of limitation applied to defamation and false light claims). ...


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