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Kiebala v. Boris

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

July 1, 2019

George Kiebala, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Derek Boris, Defendant-Appellee.

          Argued September 5, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:16-CV-7478 - Marvin E. Aspen, Judge.

          Before Easterbrook, Hamilton, and Scudder, Circuit Judges.

          Hamilton, Circuit Judge.

         Plaintiff-appellant George Kiebala appeals from the dismissal of his complaint against defendant-appellee Derek Boris. Kiebala contends the district court abused its discretion in failing to suggest how Kiebala, who represented himself in the district court, could amend his complaint to avoid dismissal. He also argues that the district court erred in holding that his libel claim is barred by the statute of limitations.

         We affirm. District judges do not have an affirmative duty to coach or second-guess the choices that parties, even pro se parties, make about how to litigate their cases. We also agree with the district court that the applicable Illinois statute of limitations bars Kiebala's libel claim.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         A. The Dispute

         In reviewing a dismissal for failure to state a claim, we accept the facts as alleged by the plaintiff without vouching for their objective truth. Goldberg v. United States, 881 F.3d 529, 531 (7th Cir. 2018). Kiebala owns a luxury car share service called Curvy Road Holdings, LLC.[1] It allows customers to purchase time-ownership rights to high-end automobiles that are owned by "investors." In September 2009, Derek Boris became a Curvy Road "investor" and received a share of the rental revenue when customers drove his Lamborghini Gallardo. All was well for the first few months as Kiebala made payments to Boris in late 2009 and March 2010.

         In May 2010, however, Boris withdrew his car from the program, and Kiebala's check for his final payment to Boris did not clear. Kiebala emailed Boris on July 16, 20, 22, and August 6, 2010, to explain that various medical and business difficulties were preventing payment. Boris never received his final payment, and communications between the two seemed to come to an end.

         After a period of quiet, though, Boris posted angry and derogatory statements on various websites about Kiebala and Curvy Road. He did this on at least eight occasions from December 2010 through July 2011. Sharing his thoughts on customer review sites such as Scamexposure.com, Private-complaints, com, and Ripoffreport.com, Boris allegedly revealed (we must assume) Curvy Road's confidential business information and opined that "it is a FRAUD company" whose "owner simply cannot be trusted [because] [h]e has lied repeatedly and he will steal your money."

         Kiebala's final posting from this period, central to the statute of limitations issue here, was made to RipoffReport.com on July 20, 2011. The subject heading asserted that Kiebala was a "SCAM and FRAUD!" and "Stole Money!" The message said:

The company rents some of its exotic cars from individual owners such as myself, and pays out a commission based off of actual customer use. However, their excuse for not paying THOUSANDS of owed commissions to me is that "my wife took my money"! This from a supposed 'professional' company, makes it clear that lying and stealing are part of George Kiebala [and] Curvy Road['s] ... daily management! I would advise EVERYONE, customers and potential partners, to STAY AWAY from this thief, or you risk losing everything. This company, and the owners, simply cannot be trusted!![2]

         And with that, the dispute went dormant for several years.

         In the fall of 2014, Boris again turned his sights on Kiebala. On October 22, 2014, Boris emailed Kiebala that he wanted to give him "a chance to make good on our agreement before I put my review of your company on various websites." The parties did not reach a settlement agreement, and Boris launched a new round of internet postings.

         On July 21, 2015, on a new website called scamorg.com, Boris posted a statement almost identical to his RipoffReport post of July 20, 2011. And on July 22, 2015, Boris returned to RipoffReport.com and "updated" his original July 20, 2011 post. According to Kiebala, "No additional information appears to have been provided when the post was updated." Kiebala claims, and we assume for purposes of the appeal, that by indicating that his 2011 negative review was "updated," Boris caused ...


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