United States District Court, D. Minnesota
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO DISMISS
Wilhelmina M. Wright United States District Judge
matter is before the Court on Defendant CBS Broadcasting,
Inc.'s motion to dismiss the complaint of Plaintiffs
Melissa Conness and Amy Conness. (Dkt. 12.) For the reasons
addressed below, the motion to dismiss is granted.
Melissa Conness and Amy Conness (the Connesses) are residents
of Lakefield, Minnesota, who owned and operated a daycare
business. The Connesses initiated this lawsuit against
Defendant CBS Broadcasting, Inc., (CBS), alleging defamation
(Count I), negligence (Count II), and negligent infliction of
emotional distress (Count III). The Connesses allege that a
local news program on CBS falsely reported on September 10,
2018, that their daycare license was revoked after a child in
their care was sexually assaulted by an adult. The CBS story,
the Connesses allege, implied that they “were involved
in a sexual assault or molestation” and “have
engaged in illegal, immoral, criminal or wrongful
moves to dismiss the complaint. In support of its motion, CBS
attaches a copy of the online publication that the Connesses
allege was defamatory. The publication reads:
A daycare in Lakefield, Minnesota, had its license revoked
Friday after it was determined a child had been sexually
assaulted by an adult in June.
The order of revocation states a child who was at the daycare
was molested June 4 or 5 by someone who had access to the
child while in the care of the facility. A temporary
revocation was issued June 11 and was not appealed, so the
suspension remains in effect.
The owners of the daycare, Melissa Conness and Amy Conness,
closed the daycare June 8.
the supporting documents to its motion to dismiss, CBS claims
the news report was based exclusively on information obtained
from public records available on the Minnesota Department of
Human Services website.
moves to dismiss the Connesses's complaint for
“failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must
include “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true,
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678
(2009) (internal quotation marks omitted). A claim is
facially plausible when its factual content “allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. But a
pleading that relies on “ ‘labels and
conclusions' or ‘a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action' ” is insufficient;
as is “a complaint [that] tenders ‘naked
assertion[s]' ” without “factual
enhancement.” Id. (quoting Bell Atl. Corp.
v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 557 (2007)). A court need
not accept the plaintiffs' contentions as to legal
conclusions, however. Id. Although a district court
generally must ignore materials outside the pleadings when
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “materials that are
part of the public record or do not contradict the
complaint” may be considered by the district court,
Smithrud v. City of St. Paul, 746 F.3d 391, 395 (8th
Cir. 2014), along with materials that are necessarily
embraced by the pleadings, id.
Defamation (Count I)
plaintiff alleging a defamation claim under Minnesota
must prove that the defendant published a false statement of
fact “of and concerning” the plaintiff that
damaged the plaintiff's reputation and lowered the
plaintiff's estimation in the community. See Toney v.
WCCO Television, Midwest Cable & Satellite, Inc., 85
F.3d 383, 386 (8th Cir. 1996) (citing Lewis v. Equitable
Life Assurance Soc'y, 389 N.W.2d 876, 886 (Minn.
1986)). To satisfy the “of and concerning”
element, a plaintiff need not be named in the defamatory
statement as long as the reader would understand “by
fair implication” that the statement is directed at the
plaintiff. Glenn v. Daddy Rocks, Inc., 171 F.Supp.2d
943, 948 (D. Minn. 2001).
contends that the defamation claim is deficient as to the
“of and concerning” element. CBS maintains that,
other than the statement informing that the daycare owners
closed the daycare, nothing in the publication explicitly, or
by implication, referred to Melissa Conness and Amy Conness.
Identification of the Connesses as the daycare owners is not
actionable because it is the truth. See Turkish Coalition
of Am., Inc. v. Buininks, 678 F.3d 617, 625 (8th Cir.
2012) (stating that truth is a complete defense to defamation