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Parnigoni v. St. Columba's Nursery School

January 29, 2010

FIONA PARNIGONI, DAVID PARNIGONI, AND ANDREW PARNIGONI, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ST. COLUMBA'S NURSERY SCHOOL, ST. COLUMBA'S EPISCOPAL CHURCH, VESTRY OF ST. COLUMBA'S PARISH, REV. JANET VINCENT, AND JULIA H. BERRY DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reggie B. Walton United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

The plaintiffs in this civil lawsuit assert claims against St. Columba's Nursery School; St. Columba's Episcopal Church; Vestry of St. Columba's Parish, the administrative committee of the church; Reverend Janet Vincent, Rector of the Church; and Julia H. Berry, Director of the School (collectively "the defendants"), Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶¶ 4-8, for defamation (Count I), Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-59; invasion of privacy--false light (Count II), Am. Compl. ¶¶ 61-67; invasion of privacy--public disclosure of private facts (Count III), Am. Compl. ¶¶ 68-74; intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV), Am. Compl. ¶¶ 75-80; promissory estoppel (Count V), Am. Compl. ¶¶ 81-86; loss of consortium (Counts VI-VIII), Am. Compl. ¶¶ 87-104; intentional interference with prospective economic advantage (Count IX), Am. Compl. ¶¶ 105-11; and negligent misrepresentation (Count X), Am. Compl. ¶¶ 112-17. Currently before this Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and the Defendants' Statement of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) ("Defs.' Mem."). The motion is opposed by the plaintiffs, Plaintiffs' Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint ("Pls.' Opp'n"), to which the defendants filed their Reply in Support of Motion to Dismiss Amended Complaint Pursuant to Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) ("Defs.' Reply"). Upon consideration of the submissions filed by the parties, the Court concludes that the defendants' motion must be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

The plaintiffs in this civil lawsuit are Fiona Parnigoni, David Parnigoni, and Andrew Parnigoni ("the plaintiffs"), who are residents of Arlington, Virginia. Am. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiff Fiona Parnigoni is the wife of co-plaintiff David Parnigoni, and co-plaintiff Andrew Parnigoni is their three-year-old son. Id. The dispute between the parties occurred during Fiona Parnigoni's employment as a teacher from 2001 to 2008 at St. Columba's Nursery School (the "Nursery School" or "School") located in the District of Columbia. See generally Am. Compl. Viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs, the facts underlying this action are the following.

In 2004, while she was employed by the School, id. at ¶ 15, Mrs. Parnigoni's fiancé at that time, David Parnigoni, was charged with and ultimately convicted of indecently exposing himself to a minor, id. ¶¶ 13, 15. Mrs. Parnigoni had no involvement in that incident, id. ¶ 13, but while the case was still pending resolution, Mrs. Parnigoni informed the Director of the School of the situation regarding her fiancé, and the Director in turn informed the Board of Governors of the Church (the "Board") and the Rector, Reverend James Donald, of David Parnigoni's situation, id. ¶ 15. The defendants took no action at that time and Mrs. Parnigoni continued to work at the School without any further discussions about the matter. Id. ¶¶ 16-17.

Sometime thereafter, David and Fiona Parnigoni married, and at no time did anyone associated with the School or Church Parish indicate that Mrs. Parnigoni's subsequent marriage to Mr. Parnigoni was or would be cause for concern or place her job in jeopardy. Id. ¶ 17.

Three years after Mr. Parnigoni's conviction, in 2007, the Parnigonis decided to enroll their son at the School as a student, and they were notified of his acceptance in March 2007. Id. ¶ 19. Neither before nor at the time of the son's acceptance was there any indication that the defendants would publicly disclose information regarding Mr. Parnigoni's conviction as a sex offender as a result of the child's enrollment in the school. Id. However, in August of 2007, Julia Berry, who was named Director of the School in 2006, met with Mrs. Parnigoni and requested information from her regarding the details concerning Mr. Parnigoni's 2004 conviction. Id. ¶ 18. The Director stated that Mrs. Parnigoni was required to disclose the details of her husband's conviction so that the Director would be able to explain the circumstances to any parent who might inquire about the situation. Id. Mrs. Parnigoni provided the Director with the requested information and offered the Director the opportunity to speak with her husband's lawyers, id., however, the record is unclear as to whether the Director accepted or declined the offer.

On "the first day of the 2007-2008 term for teachers, the Director informed Mrs. Parnigoni that the Board was 'nervous' about [Mr. Parnigoni's] 2004 conviction." Id. ¶ 20. The Board's apprehension apparently stemmed from the fact that "Mr. Parnigoni might [now] have reason to be on the School property to pick [] up [his son]." Id. "Mrs. Parnigoni informed the Director that she [planned to] walk [her son] off school grounds a block away on the single day per week when her husband was required to pick [their son] up from school," which was in accordance "with the unwritten agreement that was in place" between Mrs. Parnigoni and the School "since Mr. Parnigoni's conviction." Id. ¶ 21. The Board was allegedly "relieved" to learn of the Parnigonis' arrangements to take their son off campus when Mr. Parnigoni needed to pick him up from school, id.; however, the Director still requested Mr. Parnigoni's "lawyer's contact information so that St. Columba's counsel could make a 'courtesy call,'" id. ¶ 22. The Church's attorney then contacted Mr. Parnigoni's lawyer and informed him that the Church was satisfied with the arrangement of walking Andrew away from the school to meet Mr. Parnigoni and assured the lawyer that "everything is fine" and that the Parnigonis "would not hear from the Church again on this issue." Id. Andrew Parnigioni's first day as a student at the School was September 17, 2007. Id. ¶ 23.

On October 1, 2007, the Director of the School told Mrs. Parnigoni that the Rector of the Church, Janet Vincent, wished to "meet with her." Id. ¶ 24. The "meeting was held two days later on October 3, 2007," id., and those in attendance included the Rector of the Church, the Director of the School, the Church's attorney, the Chairman of the Church's Board of Governors, Mrs. Parnigoni, and her attorney, id. ¶ 25. During the meeting, the Rector announced "her decision to make a full public disclosure" of Mr. Parnigoni's 2004 conviction "to all parents of students [attending] the Nursery School and the entire Parish." Id. It was also indicated that the Church planned to announce "the fact that Mrs. Parnigoni, a teacher at the school, was married to a convicted sex offender." Id.

As noted earlier, the Church had not mentioned previously any concerns regarding Mrs. Parnigoni's marriage to Mr. Parnigoni; therefore, Mr. and Mrs Parnigoni surmised that the new concern was related "to her son's enrollment in the [S]chool." Id. ¶ 26. Accordingly, Mrs. Parnigoni offered to withdraw Andrew from the School to avoid any "embarrassment to her and her family," and the Church's attorney allegedly informed Mrs. Parnigoni that removing her son from the School would "certainly 'help'" the situation, and the attorney "encouraged" her to do so. Id. Mrs. Parnigoni therefore removed her son from the School in early October 2007, id. ¶ 27, and she also "offered to resign her position" as a teacher "in order to avert public disclosure" of her husband's conviction, but the School "rejected" her offer, id. ¶ 28.

On October 12, 2007, the Director of the School "met with Mrs. Parnigoni's co-teacher and two other colleagues" to discuss the impending disclosures about Mr. Parnigoni. Id. ¶ 29. "[T]he Director stated that while she was sorry that this had happened to Mrs. Parnigoni, she put the blame for the entire situation on Mrs. Parnigoni, and declared that if Mrs. Parnigoni had not married [her husband], she 'would not be in this position.'" Id. That same day, the Director emailed Mrs. Parnigoni asking her to remain at home on October 15, 2007, so that the Rector could inform the staff about the "'disclosure' without her being present." Id. ¶ 30. When the Rector spoke to the School staff during the meeting, she apparently "made it clear" that the sole reason for the disclosure was due to Mrs. Parnigoni's "'poor judgment in marrying David'" and denied that the disclosures were based on their son's "enrollment in the School." Id. ¶ 31. The Rector further stated that she would have made "the disclosure . . . even if [Mrs. Parnigoni] resigned." Id.

"On or about October 18, 2007, [the Rector] sent a letter (the "October 18[th] letter") to the parents of the students of the School and to all members of the Church's parish," which, inter alia, informed them of Mr. Parnigoni's registration "with the Virginia Sex Offenders and Crimes Against Minors Registry as a result of [his] July 3, 2004 conviction for indecent exposure to a minor." Id. ¶ 32. The letter identified David as Fiona's husband and indicated that "[u]ntil recently their son had attended the Nursery School." Id. The letter went on to state that it had been issued to "enable [parents] to make informed decisions as to whom [they should] entrust the care and supervision of [their children]." Id. It further stated that because the defendants lacked the ability "to anticipate every possible future scenario [they] believe[d their] best course of action [was] to give [the] parents the information they need[ed] to protect their children." Id. Moreover, the letter stated that the "disclosures [were] necessary for the sake of our children" because the parents were "entitled to information that may impact the safety of [their children]." Id. The Church sent the letter to "[o]ver 3,500 households in the D.C. metropolitan area," although the number of people who actually "read the letter" is unknown. Id. ¶ 33. "On the same day that the [October 18th letter] was sent to the parents and the entire parish," the Director sought suggestions and recommendations from other nursery school directors in "an email to the DC Directors' Exchange list-serve, a group consisting of approximately 37 nursery school directors in the Washington, D.C. area." Id. ¶ 34. The email included all of the details regarding the Parnigoni's situation and their relationship with the School without identifying them by name. Id.

On October 31, 2007, the Parnigonis "received a letter from a parent" expressing the view that the School's "approach [was] totally unjustified," resulting in the Parnigoni "family's name and reputation [being] tarnished, [and their] personal affairs publicized, and [their] son [] taken out of the school." Id. ¶ 39. On that same day, the Parnigonis received a copy of another letter sent to the Rector from a parent of one of the children attending the school that expressed disappointment with the school's decision to embarrass Mrs. Parnigonis and her family. Id. ¶ 40. As had been announced in the October 18th letter, "on November 1, 2007[,] a meeting, open to the public, was held to address any questions or concerns that the [October 18th letter] might have raised." Id. ¶ 38. Some who attended "the meeting indicated that they believed the Rector's letter unfairly cast Mrs. Parnigoni as a threat to children." Id.

"On or about November 9, 2007, [the Director] sent another letter (the "November 9[th] letter") to the parents of students who attended the nursery school and[, it is believed by the plaintiffs], the entire parish as well. Id. ¶ 41. Among other things, the letter stated "that the world can be a less-than safe place for our children." Id. According to the plaintiffs, the letter "reinforced" the notion that "Mrs. Parnigoni was a potential threat to the School's children[,]" id., despite there having been no previous incidents suggesting "that Mrs. Parnigoni, because of her marriage to Mr. Parnigoni[,] or for any other reason, endangered or posed a threat to any student of the School or member of St. Columba's parish," id. ¶¶ 41, 42.

Although the Director informed Mrs. Parnigoni "that the Board would renew her contract for the next [school] year and that her teaching position with the school was safe and that she need not worry as the 'storm would soon pass'" at a meeting held shortly after the October 18th letter was sent, id. ¶ 37, Mrs. Parnigoni's contract was not renewed for the 2008-2009 school year despite her unblemished employment record, id. ¶¶ 42-43. The plaintiffs assert that the Director told a parent that Mrs. Parnigoni's contract was not renewed "because of the disclosures contained in the [October 18th letter] and because current parents allegedly wanted to withdraw [their children] from Mrs. Parnigoni's class and prospective students did not want to be in her class [the following] year." Id. ¶ 43.

In addition to teaching at the School, Mrs. Parnigoni had operated a summer camp since 2000 named the Teddy Bear Camp, for three- to six-year-old children "on the grounds of another [area] church." Id. ¶ 44. According to the plaintiffs, some of the students who attended the nursery School also attended Mrs. Parnigoni's Teddy Bear Camp during the summer and the defendants were allegedly "displeased that Mrs. Parnigoni ran [the] summer camp and that students from their School attended the camp." Id. ¶ 45. Accordingly, "[o]n or about February 28, 2008," [the Director] issued Mrs. Parnigoni a "letter of reprimand because Mrs. Parnigoni sent parents a flyer about the Teddy Bear Camp," although she had done this in the past with the Director's knowledge and had not previously been chastised for doing so. Id.

As a result of the actions allegedly taken by the defendants, the plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages, the costs of pursuing this action, and attorney's fees. Id. at 26. The defendants now seek dismissal of this action under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state any claims upon which relief may be granted. Defs.' Mem. at 1.

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests whether the plaintiffs have properly stated a claim upon which relief may be granted. Woodruff v. DiMario, 197 F.R.D. 191, 193 (D.D.C. 2000). For a complaint to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, it need only provide "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), which accomplishes the due objective of "giv[ing] the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "Although detailed factual allegations are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, to provide the grounds of entitlement to relief, a plaintiff must furnish more than labels and conclusions or a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." Hinson ex rel N.H. v. Merritt Educ. Ctr., 521 F. Supp. 2d 22, 27 (D.D.C. 2007) (internal quotation marks and alteration in original omitted) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Or, as the Supreme Court more recently stated, "[t]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). Furthermore, a claim is facially plausible "when the plaintiff[s] plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant[s] [are] liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft, 129. S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Moreover, under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court "must treat the complaint's factual allegations as true and must grant [the] plaintiff[s] the benefit of all reasonable inferences [that can be derived] from the facts alleged." Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and alteration in original omitted). Finally, factual challenges are not permitted under Rule 12(b)(6); instead, the Court may only consider the factual allegations set forth in the complaint, any documents attached as exhibits thereto (or incorporated therein), and matters subject to judicial notice in weighing the merits of the motion. EEOC v. St. Francis Xavier Parochial Sch., 117 F.3d 621, 624-25 (D.C. Cir. 1997). The Court's focus is therefore restricted to the facts as alleged by the plaintiffs, which must be sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

III. Legal Analysis

The defendants challenge the sufficiency of each claim asserted in the plaintiffs complaint. The Court will address each challenge separately after first assessing whether the claims are controlled by the law of the District of Columbia or Virginia.

A. Choice of Law

All of the plaintiffs' claims arise from common law principles of tort liability, and are being pursued in this Court "based on the diversity of the citizenship of the parties pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) (2006)." Am. Compl. ¶ 9. The plaintiffs are citizens of Virginia, defendants Vincent and Berry are citizens of Maryland, and the principle places of business for the remaining defendants appear to be in the District of Columbia. Id. ¶¶ 1-8. As an initial matter, the Court must assess which law of these three jurisdictions apply to the several claims asserted by the plaintiffs. "When deciding state-law claims under diversity or supplemental jurisdiction, federal courts apply the choice-of-law rules of the jurisdiction in which they sit." Mastro v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 447 F.3d 843, 857 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted). Employing the choice-of-law rules of the District of Columbia, "the [C]court must first determine if there is a conflict between the laws of the relevant jurisdictions." Y.W.C.A. of the Nat'l Capital Area, Inc. v. Allstate Ins. Co. of Canada, 275 F.3d 1145, 1150 (D.C. Cir. 2002). If a conflict exists, then courts in the District of Columbia must determine which jurisdiction has the most significant relationship to the claims being pursued by the plaintiffs. The relevant factors to consider in conducting this analysis are: "(a) the place where the injury occurred; (b) the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred; (c) the domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation and place of business of the parties; and (d) the place where the relationship is centered." District of Columbia v. Coleman, 667 A.2d 811, 816 (D.C. 1995) (citing Restatement (Second) of Conflict of Laws § 145(2) (1971)); Pearce v. E.F. Hutton Group Inc., 664 F. Supp. 1490, 1498 (D.D.C. 1987). Furthermore, the District of Columbia courts apply a governmental interest analysis when examining claims under this jurisdiction's choice of law principles. See Adolph Coors Co. v. Truck Ins. Exch., 960 A.2d 617, 620 (D.C. 2008) (applying a governmental interest analysis to case); Linnell v. Sloan, 636 F.2d 65, 66-67 (4th Cir. 1980) (stating that the District of Columbia applies a governmental interest analysis when there is a conflict of laws).

The plaintiff has alleged claims for defamation (Count I), invasion of privacy--false light (Count II), invasion of privacy--public disclosure of private facts (Count III), intentional infliction of emotional distress (Count IV), promissory estoppel (Count V), loss of consortium (Counts VI-VIII), intentional interference with prospective economic advantage (Count IX), and negligent misrepresentation (Count X). The Court finds, and the parties have not disputed the contention, that it need not determine whether Virginia, Maryland, or District of Columbia law is controlling in regards to Counts I, IV, V, and IX, as the laws of those jurisdictions are not in conflict with respect to the prerequisites for the establishment of these claims. There is, however, a conflict as to Counts II, III, VI, VII, VIII. The parties make no argument as to which jurisdictions' law applies to Count X, however, for the same reasons that follow, the Court concludes that it is the law of the District of Columbia that governs this claim.

The defendants assert that the Court should dismiss Counts II and III (the two invasion of privacy claims) because "the[] claims are not recognized under Virginia law." Defs.' Mem. at 18. The defendants make the same argument with respect to the plaintiffs' loss of consortium claims, Counts VI-VIII. Defs.' Mem. at 29-30. The plaintiffs counter that as to Counts II and III, the District of Columbia has the most significant relationship to those claims because it is the place where the injury and the conduct that caused the injury occurred. Pls.' Opp'n at 26. The plaintiffs make the same assertion as to their loss of consortium claims. Pls.' Opp'n at 38.

Concerning Counts II and III, the Court agrees with the plaintiffs that the District of Columbia has the greatest interest regarding these claims as all of the factors that must be considered-the place where the injury occurred, the place where the relationship is centered, the place where the conduct causing the injury occurred, and the place of business of the parties-weigh in favor of this conclusion. The Court reaches the same conclusion as to Count X. The injury to the plaintiffs occurred in the District of Columbia, as this is where the alleged invasion of the plaintiffs' privacy and the purported negligent misrepresentation occurred; this is where the alleged damage was inflicted, as this is where the information about the plaintiffs was disseminated, and this is where the dissemination of the information seems to have had its greatest impact on the plaintiffs, i.e., this is where Mrs. Parnigoni was employed and operated her business, where the school from which Andrew had to be withdrawn is located, and the location where the relationship between the parties was centered.

In regards to Counts VI-VIII, the plaintiffs' consortium claims, a different result is demanded. Jurisdictions that employ the governmental interest choice of law principle typically rule that the law governing a loss of consortium action is the law where the marriage is domiciled, not where the injury occurred. See, e.g., Felch v. Air Fla., 562 F. Supp. 383, 386 (D.D.C. 1983). Thus, under this jurisdiction's choice of law analysis, the law governing the plaintiffs' loss of consortium claims is Virginia law, which is where Mr. and Mrs. Parnigoni and their son are domiciled. See Felch v. Air Fla., 562 F. Supp. at 386 (stating that the jurisdiction where the marital parties are domiciled has a greater interest than the place where the injury occurred).

B. The Plaintiffs' Defamation Claim

Count I of the amended complaint asserts that Fiona and Andrew Parnigoni were defamed when the defendants disseminated the October 18, 2007 and November 9, 2007 letters. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47-59. The defendants move to dismiss this claim on the ground that the two letters are not defamatory as a matter of law. Defs.' Mem. at 9. The defendants maintain that their challenged statements are true and that although the disclosures in the letters identifying Fiona and Andrew as David Parnigoni's wife and son may have been embarrassing, these revelations did not make them appear "'odious, infamous, or ridiculous.'" Id. at 10-11. The defendants further contend that it was clear that the disclosures were about David Parnigoni and not "'of and concerning'" Fiona and Andrew Parnigoni. Id. at 11. Accordingly, the defendants do not believe the letters contained anything that could demonstrate that they intended to convey that Fiona and Andrew Parnigoni, as opposed to David Parnigoni, posed a risk to the students' safety. Id. at 12-13. Additionally, they argue that the letters, when considered in context, would not lead a reasonable person (in this case the parents of children attending the School or who are considering enrolling a child in the School) to believe that either Andrew or Fiona Parnigoni posed a threat to their children. Id. at 13-14. Instead, the defendants contend that the October 18, 2007 letter served merely as an advisory to parents concerning David Parnigoni's background and a warning that they should not assume that "he could be entrusted around their children simply because he is married to someone the Church didconsider worthy of that trust." Id. at 14 (emphasis in original). Moreover, the defendants assert that even if a defamatory inference could be derived from the Church's statement regarding the parents' right to know about Mr. Parnigoni's conviction, the statement is the Church's "opinion based on disclosed facts" and is therefore constitutionally protected. Id. at 16-18.

The plaintiffs, on the other hand, insist that they have sufficiently pled a claim for defamation "by implication" because the issuance of a false statement is not a necessary component of a defamation by implication claim under District of Columbia law. Pls.' Opp'n at 14. They argue that the "defamatory inference" arose from the defendants' "juxtaposition of factual statements regarding Fiona Parnigoni's status as David Parnigoni's wife, with other non-factual statements regarding" the Church's reasoning for why disclosure was necessary. Id. at 14-15. The plaintiffs believe that a reasonable person could have construed the letters as conveying the impression that Mrs. Parnigoni was also believed to pose a threat to children. Id. at 14-16. The plaintiffs also advance a similar theory of liability on behalf of Andrew Parnigoni, questioning why the defendants had to reveal that Andrew was no longer a student in the School if, as the defendants claim, they did not intend to convey that Andrew posed no threat to the other students. Id. at 16. The plaintiffs also disagree with the defendants' position that the October 18 letter was not capable of a defamatory meaning, id. at 17, and have presented letters from other parents to demonstrate that there were, in fact, members of the public who thought the letter was defamatory.*fn1 Id. at 17-19. Moreover, the plaintiffs point to what they characterize as the November 9, 2007 letter's "thinly veiled reference to pedophilia" as proof of the defendants' intent to convey a defamatory inference concerning Mrs. Parnigoni. Id. at 17-19. The plaintiffs also believe that the circumstances under which the disclosures were made demonstrate that the defendants acted with defamatory intent. Specifically, they note the defendants' refusal to forgo disclosing the information about Mr. Parnigoni despite their offer to (1) have Mr. Parnigoni pick Andrew up from the school several blocks away so Mr. Parnigoni would not have to be on school property as an adequate means of addressing the defendants' concerns, (2) withdraw Andrew from the School, and (3) Mrs. Parnigoni's offer to resign and instead reveal highly embarrassing information to over 3,500 households, which the Parnigonis assert collectively illustrates the defendants' desire to criticize Mrs. Parnigoni for her decision to marry Mr. Parnigoni. Id. at 20-21; Am. Compl. ¶¶ 56-57. They further contend that this intent is reflected by the decision not to renew Mrs. Parnigoni's contract. Pls.' Opp'n at 21.

In order for the plaintiffs' defamation claim to survive the defendants' Rule 12(b)(6) motion, they must show "(1) that the defendant[s] made a false and defamatory statement concerning the plaintiff[s]; (2) that the defendant[s] published the statement without privilege to a third party; (3) that the defendant[s'] fault in publishing the statement amounted to at least negligence; and (4) either that the statement was actionable as a matter of law irrespective of special harm or that its publication caused the plaintiff[s] special harm." Jankovic v. Int'l Crisis Group, 494 F.3d 1080, 1088 (D.C. Cir. 2007) (quoting Croixland Props. L.P. v. Corcoran, 174 F.3d 213, 215 (D.C. Cir. 1999)). For the following ...


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