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Stovell v. James

United States District Court, District Circuit

September 1, 2013

LEICESTER BRYCE STOVELL, Plaintiff,
v.
LEBRON R. JAMES, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Leicester Bryce Stovell, an attorney proceeding pro se, filed suit against Defendant LeBron James in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, alleging the Defendant defamed the Plaintiff and portrayed the Plaintiff in a false light through certain comments made by the Defendant in a story published in the April 30, 2012, edition of Sports Illustrated Magazine. The Defendant removed the action to this Court, and now moves for summary judgment on the grounds the Plaintiff's claims are time barred, and separately moves to dismiss both counts for failure to state a claim. Over a month after the briefing on the Defendant's motions were complete, the Plaintiff moved for leave to file a second amended complaint. Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds the Plaintiff's proposed amendments to the operative complaint would not survive the pending motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Plaintiff's [23] Request for Leave to File the Verified Second Amended Complaint is DENIED, the Defendant's [9] Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and the Defendant's [8] Motion to Dismiss is DENIED AS MOOT.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed suit against the Defendant in 2010 alleging that he is LeBron James's biological father. See generally Stovell v. James, 810 F.Supp.2d 237 (D.D.C. 2011). The Plaintiff asserted a number of claims arising out of allegations that both LeBron James and his mother Gloria have spread lies about Stovell's paternity, falsified the results of a paternity test which found the Plaintiff was not the Defendant's father, and made disparaging remarks regarding the Plaintiff. Id. at 240. The Court dismissed all of the Plaintiff's claims, including common law fraud and misrepresentation, defamation, breach of contract, and tortious interference with contract, for failure to state a claim. Id. at 251. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit summarily affirmed the dismissal of the Plaintiff's claims. Stovell v. James, No. 12-7034, 2013 WL 2393055 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 24, 2012).

The Plaintiff initiated this action in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia on April 29, 2013, and filed an amended complaint two days later. See Stovell v. James, No. 2013 CA 002985 (D.C. Sup.Ct. Apr. 29, 2011); Am. Compl., ECF No. [1-1]. The Plaintiff alleges that in an article published in the April 30, 2012, edition of Sports Illustrated Magazine, Defendant James made the following statement:

"My father wasn't around when I was a kid, and I use to always say, Why me? Why don't I have a father? Why isn't he around? Why did he leave my mother?' But as I got older I looked deeper though, I don't know what my father was going through, but if he was around all the time, would I be who I am today?'" James said. "It made me grow up fast. It helped me be more responsible. Maybe I wouldn't be sitting here right now."

Am. Compl. ¶ 4. The Plaintiff does not allege that the article identified him as the Defendant's father. Rather, the Plaintiff alleges that because his first lawsuit "received worldwide media attention, " and "the reports often noted the similarity in appearance between Plaintiff Stovell and Defendant James, " some individuals who read Defendant James' statement in Sports Illustrated "learned of the abandonment charge for the first time from the article and associated the abandonment charge with Plaintiff for the first time." Id. ¶ 8. The Plaintiff further contends that "others who understood Plaintiff [] to be Defendant[s] father by other means also were exposed" to the Defendant's statement. Id. ¶ 9. The Plaintiff asserts claims for defamation and "false light" on the grounds the Defendant "falsely portrayed Plaintiff to the public as an abandoner of his child, unwilling to share in his support and upbringing." Id. ¶ 20.

The Defendant removed the action to this Court on May 21, 2013, and subsequently moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint. Specifically, the Defendant argues the Plaintiff failed to state a claim for defamation and false light because the purportedly defamatory statement is either true or a matter of opinion, and the statement could not be understood to reference the Plaintiff. See generally Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. [8]. Separately, the Defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds the Plaintiff's claims are time-barred. See generally Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. [9]. The Plaintiff filed memoranda in opposition to both motions, but did not amend his complaint or request leave to conduct discovery before responding to the Defendant's motion for summary judgment. Over one month after the Defendant filed reply briefs in support of his motions, the Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to file a second amended complaint.[2] The Defendant opposes the Plaintiff's motion on the grounds the Plaintiff's amended claims would not survive the pending dispositive motions and the Plaintiff unduly delayed seeking leave to amend his complaint. The Court agrees that the Plaintiff's claims-even considering the proposed amendments-are time barred, and thus does not reach the Defendant's motion to dismiss.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:
(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials); or
(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). "If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party's assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may... consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e). When considering a motion for summary judgment, the court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence; the evidence must be analyzed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, with all justifiable inferences drawn in his favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). "If material facts are at issue, or, though ...


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