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MCNALLY v. YARNALL

May 13, 1991

SEAN M. MCNALLY AND JANET MCNALLY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JAMES YARNALL AND THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sweet, District Judge.

OPINION

Plaintiffs Sean and Janet McNally (the "McNallys" or "McNally") have moved pursuant to Rule 15(a) Fed.R.Civ.P. for leave to amend their complaint in their defamation action against James Yarnall ("Yarnall") to include as a defendant Yarnall's lawyer Peter R. Stern ("Stern"), and the law firm of Berger & Steingut, based on certain allegedly libelous statements made by Stern. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is denied.

THE PARTIES

The McNallys are residents of the State of New Jersey, and, for the past fourteen years, have been engaged in the purchase and sale of the works of the artist John La Farge ("La Farge"). McNally is also currently writing a book on La Farge and the history of his works. The McNallys have offered certain of their art works for sale through the Graham Gallery in New York City and at an exhibition of La Farge works sponsored by the William Vareika Fine Arts Gallery ("Vareika") in Newport, Rhode Island. In the past several years, articles in The New York Times and in The Los Angeles Times, as well as Associated Press wire service stories have mentioned or quoted McNally on the subject of stained glass and notified the public of upcoming lectures by McNally on La Farge.

Yarnall is a resident of the District of Columbia. An art historian specializing in the works of La Farge, he holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in art history from the University of Chicago. Yarnall also has a B.S. Equivalent certificate of Accomplishment in computer programming from the Graduate School of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. Yarnall operates a company called Museum Systems Enterprises ("MuSE"), which provides computer database services to various museums.

Stern, a New York resident, is Yarnall's lawyer and a partner in the firm of Berger & Steingut, a partnership with offices in New York City.*fn1

The Museum is a not-for-profit corporation organized under the laws of the State of New York and located in Manhattan.

PRIOR PROCEEDINGS

The McNallys commenced this defamation and tortious interference with business relations action in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey on November 27, 1989. By order of April 23, 1990, the New Jersey District Court transferred the action to the Southern District of New York pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). The New Jersey District Court issued the order of April 23 in lieu of granting a motion by Yarnall, a resident of the District of Columbia, to dismiss as to him for lack of jurisdiction.

On August 2, 1990, the Museum filed its motion for summary judgment. The parties agreed to an adjournment of the motion until December 7, 1990 to accommodate the scheduling of discovery. A subsequent agreement adjourned the return date of the motion to February 11, 1991, when oral argument was heard. In an opinion of May 9, 1991, this court granted the Museum's summary judgment motion. 764 F. Supp. 838.

On December 31, 1990, the McNallys filed this motion to amend. On that same date, the McNallys filed a libel action against Stern in New York State Court. The state court libel action is based on the same alleged statements that are put forth here as grounds for amending the complaint.

Oral argument on the motion to amend was heard on February 15.

THE FACTS

The facts in the underlying action are set forth in this court's opinion of May 9 granting the Museum's summary judgment motion (the "Opinion"), familiarity with which is ...


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