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Ahlers v. CFMOTO Powersports, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 9, 2014

Faith Ahlers, Plaintiff,
v.
CFMOTO Powersports, Inc., Defendant.

Sofia B. Andersson-Stern, Esq. and Nichols Kaster, PLLP, 80 South Eighth Street, Suite 4600, Minneapolis, MN 55402, counsel for plaintiff.

Boris Parker, Esq. and Parker & Wenner, 100 South Fifth Street, Suite 2100, Minneapolis, MN 55402, counsel for defendant.

ORDER

DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.

This matter is before the court upon the motion to dismiss by counterclaim defendant Faith Ahlers. Based on a review of the file, record and proceedings herein, and for the following reasons, the court grants the motion in part.

BACKGROUND

This employment dispute arises out of the August 1, 2011, termination of Ahlers by counterclaim plaintiff CFMOTO Powersports, Inc. (CFMOTO). At the time of her termination, Ahlers was employed by CFMOTO as an Operations Manager. Countercl. ¶ 8.

CFMOTO alleges that, after Ahlers was terminated, she accessed company email and computer systems and "drafted emails to business partners and dealers falsely claiming that CFMOTO had unsafe products, was unfair in its dealings, and [was] in violation of various federal and state safety laws." Id . ¶¶ 12-13. Further, CFMOTO alleges that Ahlers emailed Justin Jirgl, Compliance Officer at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and falsely accused CFMOTO of lying to the CPSC and of violating safety and licensing laws. Id . Finally, CFMOTO alleges that, after being terminated, Ahlers sent defamatory emails from anonymous email addresses to dealers with whom CFMOTO has business relationships. Id.

On August 27, 2013, Ahlers filed an amended complaint against CFMOTO. Ahlers alleged claims (1) for retaliation under the Consumer Product Safety Improvements Act, (2) under the Minnesota Whistleblower Act and (3) for unpaid wages under Minnesota Statutes § 181.13. On September 10, 2013, CFMOTO counterclaimed, alleging (1) defamation, (2) tortious interference with contract, (3) tortious interference with existing and prospective economic advantage, (4) breach of employee duties to employer and (5) a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA). Ahlers moves to dismiss the counterclaims.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

To survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Braden v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. , 588 F.3d 585, 594 (8th Cir. 2009) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff [has pleaded] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Although a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must raise a right to relief above the speculative level. See Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. "[L]abels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" are not sufficient to state a claim. Iqbal , 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

The court does not consider matters outside the pleadings under Rule 12(b)(6). See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The court, however, may consider matters of public record and materials that do not contradict the complaint, as well as materials that are "necessarily embraced by the pleadings." See Porous Media Corp. v. Pall Corp. , 186 F.3d 1077, 1079 (8th Cir. 1999) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). In this case, the emails purportedly sent by Ahlers to the dealers and to Jirgl are essential to CFMOTO's claims and are necessarily embraced by the pleadings. As a result, they are properly considered at this stage in the proceedings. See Knievel v. ESPN, Inc. , 223 F.Supp.2d 1173, 1176 (D. Mont. 2002).

II. Defamation

CFMOTO first alleges a claim for defamation. Specifically, CFMOTO alleges that Ahlers "published to others comments regarding CFMOTO which accused CFMOTO of lying to CPSC and of violating other safety and licensing laws, and accusing CFMOTO of knowingly distributing unsafe products, and of engaging in unethical business practices." Countercl. ¶ 16. CFMOTO alleges that Ahlers made such comments to Jirgl and to dozens of independent dealers with whom CFMOTO has business relationships. In support of its defamation claim, CFMOTO has submitted (1) five emails allegedly sent by Ahlers to dealers on August 1, 2011, (2) an email ...


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