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Jovanovic v. US-Algeria Business Council

June 26, 2008

BOBAN JOVANOVIC, PLAINTIFF,
v.
US-ALGERIA BUSINESS COUNCIL, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colleen Kollar-kotelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pro se Plaintiff, Boban Jovanovic, brings this action against Defendant, the US-Algeria Business Council ("US-ABC"), asserting claims of fraud, tortious interference with contract and prospective business advantage, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, arising out of a letter written on US-ABC letterhead and sent by e-mail to the members of the US-ABC's Board of Directors. According to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, the single-page letter caused him to lose $6.2 billion in potential profits from the management of a highway development project in Algeria, as well as related opportunities. US-ABC has moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, arguing first that all of Plaintiff's claims are inextricably intertwined with his defamation claim and thus barred by the one-year statute of limitations applicable to such a claim under District of Columbia law, and second, that even if Plaintiff's claims are not time-barred, the Amended Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and must be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

Upon a searching review of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, the parties' filings in connection with Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, the relevant case law, and the entire record herein, the Court finds that Plaintiff's tortious interference and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims are intertwined with his defamation claim, and thus barred by the applicable one-year statute of limitations. The Court further finds that Plaintiff's previous filing of similar claims in a since-dismissed action in the District of New Jersey does not toll the statute of limitations for Plaintiff's claims in this action. As to Plaintiff's fraud claim, the Court finds that it is not intertwined with Plaintiff's defamation claim, but nevertheless finds that it must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. Although the parties' briefs raise a number of additional arguments regarding the merits of Plaintiff's claims, the Court does not reach those arguments because its conclusions regarding the statute of limitations and Plaintiff's fraud claim obviate the need to do so. Accordingly, the Court shall grant Defendant's [15] Motion to Dismiss and shall dismiss the instant case in its entirety.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

For purposes of addressing US-ABC's motion to dismiss, the Court assumes, as it must, the truth of the factual allegations set forth in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994).Plaintiff, Boban Jovanovic, is a United States citizen and resident of New Jersey who alleges that he owns "certain technology and know how for manufacturing of decorative Glass and Cultured marble products," as well as "proprietary know-how for development of Transportation and other major Infrastructure projects." Am. Compl. ¶ 1.*fn1 Plaintiff further alleges that he is a shareholder and Honorary President and "as per special need an acting President" of Genesis International Holdings, Ltd. ("Genesis"), a Delaware corporation, Id. ¶ 19, as well as a shareholder and "as per special need an acting President" of International Infrastructure Consortium, Ltd. ("IIC"), another Delaware corporation, id. ¶ 20. According to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, at an unspecified time, he entered into employment agreements with both Genesis and IIC. Id. ¶¶ 21-22. Defendant USABC "is an International business council, constituted in September 2002, as a District of Columbia 501(c)(4)/(6) non-profit corporation, for the purpose of developing closer economic and political ties between the Countries of [sic] United States and Algeria." Id. ¶ 2.

On May 5, 2003, Genesis and the Algerian Government executed a Letter of Intent ("LOI"), which states that the Algerian Government and Genesis "intend to cooperate on developing a detailed BOT (Build Operate Transfer) project architect solution for [an] East-West highway system in Algeria," and that Genesis "has developed a fundamental approach for global BOT financing, implementation and operation of [an] East-West highway system." Id. ¶ 23; US- ABC MTD, Ex. 2 (5/5/03 LOI). The LOI continues to state: (1) the Algerian Government's intent to develop and operate the East-West highway system, (2) Genesis' intent to develop a detailed proposal for that project by September 30, 2003; and (3) the parties' joint intent "[t]o review the proposal for East-West highway BOT project on September 30th, 2003 or other mutually agreed date, soon thereafter" and "[t]o enter into a BOT concession agreement, if all terms of the proposal are acceptable to the Government." Id. (emphasis added). Plaintiff alleges that, following this LOI, he entered into contracts to transfer his know-how for the development of major BOT projects to Genesis in exchange for various forms of compensation, including "a right to individually act as an exclusive supplier of all required cultured stone and decorative glass [] materials used in construction of Algeria East-West Highway project rest areas." Id. ¶ 28.

Although Plaintiff's Amended Complaint does not actually allege as much, it is clear that at some point Genesis became a member of US-ABC, along with other US and Algerian companies. See Pl.'s Opp'n at 9; Am. Compl. ¶ 33. In March 2004, US-ABC held an election for a new Chairman and slate of officers for US-ABC, which resulted in Donald Wilhelm, Vice President of Northrop Grumman Corporation ("Northrop Grumman"), being elected Chairman. Id. ¶¶ 45-50. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint includes various allegations that the March 2004 election was fraudulent because only the US-ABC Board voted, id., and also alleges that USABC was "fraudulently and illegally enacted and or registered" as a District of Columbia social welfare organization, id. ¶¶ 35-37.

On September 14, 2004, Mr. Wilhelm, acting as Chairman of US-ABC, wrote Plaintiff a letter--which Plaintiff describes as "fraudulent and defamatory"--requesting that Genesis immediately voluntarily withdraw from the US-ABC because Genesis "inappropriately claim[ed] some manner of affiliation with a number of individuals and entities that are or were members of the US-ABC, as well as individuals who are or were formally associated with the US-ABC." Am. Compl., Ex. A (9/14/04 Letter from D. Wilhelm to B. Jovanovic). Mr. Wilhelm's letter continued to state that "each of those named with whom [US-ABC] consulted denies any business or personal relationship with Genesis or with [Plaintiff] as an individual," and that USABC had concluded that Plaintiff had "without authorization, apparently made significant misrepresentations and done so in a manner that reflects on the US-ABC, itself." Id. The letter also warned that, if Plaintiff declined to voluntarily withdraw Genesis' membership, US-ABC would "seek a resolution of the membership expelling Genesis from the organization," and stated "[a]ll of this is done in the context of an uneven history of your respect of the obligations you have, from time to time, undertaken with regard to payment of certain monies." Id.

On September 15, 2004, a copy of Mr. Wilhelm's September 14, 2004 letter was forwarded to the US-ABC Board members by a Northrop Grumman employee. Am. Compl., Ex. B (9/15/04 e-mail from P. Hewinson). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint alleges that Mr. Wilhelm's September 14, 2004 letter, and the subsequent forwarding of the letter to the US-ABC Board was the result of a conspiracy between US-ABC, certain John Does, and certain Northrop Grumman employees. Id. ¶¶ 51-53, 60-62.

Plaintiff alleges that Mr. Wilhelm's September 14, 2004 letter and the September 15, 2004 e-mail (together, the "September 2004 Correspondence") damaged his reputation, caused him extreme emotional distress, and interfered with his various business relationships, including the LOI. Id. ¶¶ 77-126. In particular, Plaintiff alleges that, on September 16, 2005, a day after receiving a copy of the September 14, 2004 letter, the Algerian Government "immediately [and] permanently suspend[ed] all economic and or business and or contractual relationships with plaintiff" and "immediately announce[d] in Algeria['s] offical newspaper" that the East-West highway project would only be developed by European and Asian entities. Id. ¶ 65-67. Plaintiff further alleges that in September 2004, the Algerian Government named him a persona non-grata on Algerian premises and instructed the Algerian Consul in Washington, D.C. not to issue Plaintiff any visas for entry into Algeria. Id. ¶¶ 68-71.

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts claims for fraud (id. ¶¶ 77-78), tortious interference with contract and prospective business advantage (id. ¶¶ 95-107), defamation, libel and slander (id. ¶¶ 108-116), intentional infliction of emotional distress (id. ¶¶ 117-122), and injunctive and declaratory relief (id. ¶¶ 123-126).*fn2 As damages, Plaintiff requests $6.2 billion in compensatory damages, $18.6 billion in treble damages, and various forms of injunctive and declaratory relief. Id. ¶¶ 94, 107, 114-116, 124-126.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts--and US-ABC agrees--that this action arises out of a lawsuit Plaintiff filed in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on September 14, 2005 (i.e., one year to the day after Mr. Wilhelm's September 14, 2004 letter). Id. ¶ 3; US-ABC MTD at 6. Plaintiff filed that case pro se on behalf of himself, Genesis, and IIC, against the US-ABC and twenty-five defendants, who were all members of, or personnel associated with, the US-ABC. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4-5; US-ABC MTD at 6-7, Ex. 1 (Pl.'s Second Am. Compl. in action filed in District of New Jersey ("NJ SAC")). Like the instant case, Plaintiff's New Jersey case asserted claims arising out of the September 2004 Correspondence. Id. On April 27, 2006, Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh dismissed Plaintiff's New Jersey case against US-ABC and certain other defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. See Genesis Int'l Holdings v. US-Algeria Bus. Council, No. 05-CV-4487, 2006 WL 1128729 (D.N.J. Apr. 27, 2006); Am. Compl. ¶ 6. Thereafter, on May 1, 2006, Judge Cavanaugh dismissed Plaintiff's New Jersey case against the remaining defendants for failure to state a claim. See Genesis Int'l Holdings v. Amerada Hess Corp., No. 05-CV-4487, 2006 WL 1210443 (D.N.J. May 1, 2006); Am. Compl. ¶ 7. Plaintiff appealed these dismissals to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and on June 26, 2007, the Third Circuit affirmed Judge Cavanaugh's dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against all defendants but Northrop Grumman, finding that Plaintiff adequately ...


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