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D.M.D. Mark J. Feldman v. D.D.S. Robert R.

March 31, 2011

D.M.D. MARK J. FELDMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
D.D.S. ROBERT R. EDWAB, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently before the Court are a Motion to remand to state court (Dkt. No. 4) filed on behalf of Mark J. Feldman ("Plaintiff") and a Motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted (Dkt. No. 3) filed on behalf of Robert R. Edwab ("Defendant"). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion is denied and Defendant's Motion is granted.

II. BACKGROUND

On February 3, 2010, Mark J. Feldman, D.M.D., initiated this defamation action against Robert R. Edwab, D.D.S. by filing a Complaint (Dkt. No. 1-2, Ex. A.) in the State of New York Supreme Court. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 40-48. Plaintiff seeks relief in the form of punitive and compensatory damages. Compl at 10. On March 5, 2010, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a), Defendant removed the action to the Northern District of New York, asserting diversity of citizenship and an amount in controversy exceeding $75,000. See Notice of Removal (Dkt. No. 1)

¶¶ 6-8. On March 12, 2010, Defendant filed a Motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Dkt. No. 3. Plaintiff opposes this Motion and has filed his own Motion to remand this action to state court for lack of federal jurisdiction. See Dkt. No. 8; Dkt. No. 4.

The action centers on two letters Defendant allegedly submitted to the New York State Dental Association's Search Committee ("Search Committee") concerning Plaintiff's qualifications for employment as the Executive Director of the New York State Dental Association ("NYSDA"). Compl. ¶¶ 12-14, 20, 31. NYSDA is a constituent of the American Dental Association ("ADA") representing over 13,000 of New York's dentists. Id. ¶ 9. In 2008, the former Executive Director of NYSDA, Roy Lasky, was terminated from his position, and in January 2009, Plaintiff was given the position of Interim Executive Director of NYSDA. Compl. ¶ 10. Plaintiff had formerly held a position as President of NYSDA and as President and Executive Director of the ADA. Id. ¶ 7-8. In February 2009, Plaintiff was one of ninety applicants who applied for the permanent position as NYSDA's Executive Director; since October 2009 he has been serving as its current Executive Director. Id. ¶¶ 2, 6, 12.

Defendant is the Executive Director of the Greater New York Dental Meeting. Compl. ¶ 16. He has never been employed by the ADA or NYSDA, nor has he ever worked with Plaintiff at any organization. Id. ¶ 36. On April 14, 2009, Defendant allegedly authored and sent to the Search Committee an "unsigned, 'anonymous' letter", see Compl., Ex. A. (Dkt. No. 1-2) ("April Letter"), from a fax machine owned and used by Defendant. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. The April Letter articulates "reasons why [NYSDA] should reject [Plaintiff's] application" for the Executive Director position. Plaintiff alleges Defendant sent the April Letter to the Search Committee with the intention to cause Plaintiff financial harm, disqualify Plaintiff from employment consideration, and damage Plaintiff's reputation in the dental community. Compl. ¶¶ 20, 23. Plaintiff claims that two statements within the April Letter are defamatory and "unequivocally false." Id. ¶¶ 21, 22. These allege that Plaintiff "was removed" and "dismissed" from his position as the ADA's Executive Director "after 5 months." April Letter; Compl. ¶ 21.

On May 29, 2009, Defendant allegedly faxed a second, lengthier, "unsigned, 'anonymous'" letter, see Compl., Ex. B (Dkt. No. 1-2) (the "May Letter"), from the same machine to the Search Committee as well as to NYSDA's Officers and Governors. Compl. ¶¶ 26-27. Plaintiff alleges that this letter also included "several defamatory statements" that Defendant "knew were false or were made with disregard for their truth." Id. ¶ 31. He asserts Defendant made these statements with the intent to "disgrace," "ridicule," and "discredit" Plaintiff in his trade, occupation and business. Id. ¶¶ 31, 41, 46. Plaintiff asserts the following seven statements from the May Letter are defamatory:

Plaintiff "lied to . . . . everyone . . . at NYSDA";

Plaintiff "was relieved" of his position at the ADA;

Plaintiff's staff "has no supervision or direction";

Plaintiff is an executive director with a "three day in house and two day shopping, playing golf and spend[ing] time with his family" schedule;

Plaintiff does not have experience in association management or employee relations, and "he works 2 days a week";

NYSDA needs an "honest" director who is "not concerned with past politics"; and

Plaintiff "has ties to all" of the skeletons in NYSDA closets. Compl. ¶¶ 32 (a-g).

Plaintiff alleges Defendant's false allegations in the two letters were made with ill will in an attempt to prevent Plaintiff from being named Executive Director of NYSDA, to mar his reputation and to punish him for his association with a former NYSDA Executive Director Roy Lasky, who Defendant also harbored ill will against, and to punish Plaintiff for questioning the decision by Defendant to exclude his participation from the November, 2007 Greater New York Dental Meeting and Plaintiff's alleged refusal to mediate a conflict between the New York County Dental Society and NYSDA.

Compl. ΒΆ35. The Complaint alleges that, as a result of Defendant's letters, Plaintiff has sustained damages and will continue ...


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