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JONES v. CAPITAL CITIES/ABC INC.

February 1, 1995

QUEEN ESTHER JONES, Plaintiff(s), against CAPITAL CITIES/ABC INC., WWOR-TV INC., NATIONAL BROADCASTING COMPANY, INC., WPIX INC., CBS INC., WNYN-FOX 5, INNERCITY BROADCASTING COMPANY WBLS/WLIB, NEW YORK TELEPHONE, their agents, employees, custodians, broadcast journalists, et al., Defendant(s).


The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN E. SPRIZZO

 SPRIZZO, D.J.,

 For the reasons that follow, defendants' motions to dismiss the Second Amended Verified Complaint are granted.

 BACKGROUND

 On May 3, 1993, plaintiff pro se Queen Esther Jones ("plaintiff" or "Jones") filed a Verified Complaint against defendants Capital Cities/ABC Inc., WWOR-TV Inc., National Broadcasting Company, Inc., WPIX Inc., CBS Inc., WNYN-FOX 5, Innercity Broadcasting Company WBLS/WLIB, and York Telephone (collectively, the "defendants"), which plaintiff superseded with a First Amended Verified Complaint filed on July 7, 1993 and a Second Amended Verified Complaint filed on October 15, 1993.

 The Second Amended Verified Complaint ("SAC") makes three claims against the defendant television networks and stations. Count I makes a claim for unlawful interception of plaintiff's oral, wire and electronic communications pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2511 (1988). This Count is based on plaintiff's claim that the defendants "intercepted the plaintiff's oral, wire, and electronic communications" and made "disclosure of the contents of the plaintiff's communications . . . to the public in bad faith, and . . . without a facially valid court order or certification." SAC PP 7-8, 14.

 Count II makes a claim for false imprisonment and deprivation of plaintiff's constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. More specifically, plaintiff alleges that the defendants "confined the plaintiff after having been accused of several crimes" and that "the defendants [sic] confinement . . . was never subsequent to a legal arrest, by taking the plaintiff before a legal authority or before a magistrate, and continues such conduct." SAC PP 17-18. Plaintiff then alleges that "the defendants intentionally deprived her of her fifth, fourth, sixth, eighth, and fourtheenth [sic] amendment rights to the United States Constitution . . . [and] are acting in the spirit of 42 U.S.C. § 1983." SAC P 20.

 Defendants move to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint in its entirety for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

 DISCUSSION

 Defendants' motions to dismiss must be granted for the following reasons. First, Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Furthermore, "each averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise, and direct." Fed R. Civ. P. 8(e)(1). These requirements are designed to compel a plaintiff to identify the relevant circumstances that he claims entitle him to relief in such a manner that the defendants are provided with fair notice to enable them to answer and prepare for trial. See Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988); see generally 5 Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure: Civil § 1217 (2d ed. 1990). However, "complaints which ramble, which needlessly speculate, accuse and condemn, and which contain circuitous diatribes far removed from the heat of the claim do not comport with these goals and this system" and must be dismissed. Prezzi v. Berzak, 57 F.R.D. 149, 151 (S.D.N.Y. 1972); accord, Prezzi v. Schelter, 469 F.2d 691, 692 (2d Cir. 1972) (per curiam), cert. denied, 411 U.S. 935, 36 L. Ed. 2d 396, 93 S. Ct. 1911 (1973); Chodos v. F.B.I., 559 F. Supp. 69, 71-72 (S.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 697 F.2d 289 (2d Cir. 1982), and cert. denied, 459 U.S. 1111, 74 L. Ed. 2d 962, 103 S. Ct. 741 (1983). Moreover, to the extent a complaint alleges defamation claims, it should give defendants "'sufficient notice of the communications complained of to enable [them] to defend [themselves].'" Kelly v. Schmidberger, 806 F.2d 44, 46 (2d Cir. 1986) (quoting Liguori v. Alexander, 495 F. Supp. 641, 647 (S.D.N.Y. 1980)). On its face, it is clear that plaintiff's Second Amended Verified Complaint does not meet this standard.

 Plaintiff's Second Amended Verified Complaint is a montage of unsupported, vague and conclusory allegations that provide defendants with no adequate basis to discern the factual basis of her claims. Viewed in its best light, it contains little more than conclusory accusations of "oral, wire and electronic" eavesdropping, false imprisonment and defamation. Even after a careful review of the complaint, it is impossible to tell when any of the alleged conduct took place or in what manner defendants allegedly imprisoned plaintiff. Nor has plaintiff recited, paraphrased, or identified the alleged defamatory statements. Although this is a pro se action, and therefore is to be interpreted liberally by the Court, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652, 92 S. Ct. 594, reh'g denied, 405 U.S. 948, 30 L. Ed. 2d 819, 92 S. Ct. 963 (1972), and cannot be dismissed unless "plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [a] claim which would entitle him to relief," Dahlberg v. Becker, 748 F.2d 85, 88 (2d Cir. 1984) (citations omitted), cert. denied, 470 U.S. 1084, 85 L. Ed. 2d 144, 105 S. Ct. 1845 (1985), plaintiff's complaint must still be dismissed accordingly.

 Even assuming, arguendo, that the Second Amended Verified Complaint should not be dismissed for the reasons set forth above, 1) it is clear that it must also be dismissed because all of plaintiff's claims are time-barred; 2) plaintiff has failed to allege state action with respect to Count II as is required by 42 U.S.C. § 1983; 3) New York law does not recognize the common law tort of invasion of privacy as pleaded in Count III; and 4) plaintiff has failed to identify the alleged defamatory words about which she is complaining.

 With respect to the defendants' arguments that plaintiff's claims are all time-barred, the Second Amended Verified Complaint makes clear that the alleged acts occurred approximately eight years before plaintiff filed her original complaint. At paragraph 43, plaintiff alleges that "for 8 years she diligently tried to protect her legal rights, by trying to commence a timely action on all causes of action against the defendants . . . ." Consistent with this allegation, in her first Amended Verified Complaint, at paragraph 6, plaintiff alleged that the acts complained of occurred in 1985. Therefore, the ...


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