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Sullivan v. Duncan

United States District Court, S.D. New York

July 17, 2015

SHARLENE SULLIVAN, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW DUNCAN, DAVID GREEN, BULLRUN PRODUCTIONS, BULLRUN LLC, MALOOF TELEVISION, FOX TELEVISION, VIACOM MEDIA NETWORKS, MTV, SPIKE, and THE SPEED CHANNEL, Defendants.

Susan Marie Sullivan-Bisceglia, Esq., Sullivan Bisceglia Law Firm, PC, Wappinger Falls, NY, for Plaintiff.

Oksana G. Wright, Esq., Fox Rothschild LLP, New York, NY.

Michel Eidel, Esq., Clair E. Wischusen, Esq., Fox Rothschild LLP, Warrington, PA, For Defendants Viacom Media Networks, MTV, and Spike.

OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Sharlene Sullivan brings this action, asserting a variety of claims in connection with a reality television show called "Bullrun, " which features teams competing to win a car race. The ten named defendants may be grouped into three categories: (1) Viacom Media Networks, Spike, and MTV (collectively "Viacom" or the "Viacom defendants"); (2) Bullrun Productions, Bullrun LLC, Andrew Duncan, David Green, and Maloof Television (the "Producer defendants"); and (3) Fox Television and the Speed Channel (the "Fox defendants"). Sullivan asserts claims for copyright infringement, breach of implied contract, unjust enrichment, misappropriation, and unfair competition under section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code. The Viacom defendants now move to dismiss all claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, Viacom's motion is GRANTED and the Complaint is DISMISSED.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts[1]

In July 2005, Sullivan conceived of the idea for a reality television show called SpeedStar, featuring teams competing to win a cross-country car race.[2] Sullivan memorialized her idea by creating a treatment (the "SpeedStar Treatment").[3] Sullivan registered the SpeedStar Treatment with the Writers Guild of America in 2005, and affixed the phrases "Writers Guild Registered 2005" and "Copyright 2005" to the document.[4]

On May 6, 2006, Sullivan met with four individuals to pitch her idea for SpeedStar: two of the Producer defendants, Andrew Duncan and David Green, and two other producers not named in this suit, Fred Jung and Casey Hilz.[5] The group of producers represented to Sullivan that they worked with major television networks, including Viacom.[6] After the meeting, Sullivan directed her attorney to send the SpeedStar Treatment to Fred Jung by email.[7]

Sullivan subsequently learned that the Producer defendants created the television show Bullrun, which began airing on the Spike channel on March 13, 2007.[8] Bullrun has also aired on the television channels Speed and MTV2.[9] Sullivan alleges that Bullrun is based on the ideas contained within her SpeedStar Treatment.[10]

B. Procedural History

Sullivan initiated this lawsuit by filing a pro se complaint on March 11, 2013 (the "Original Complaint"). Although Sullivan pleaded that jurisdiction was predicated on diversity of citizenship under section 1332 of title 28 of the United States Code, she listed herself and five of the defendants as citizens of New York.[11] After the Viacom defendants moved to dismiss the Original Complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to Sullivan's failure to plead complete diversity, Sullivan argued in her opposition papers that she was mistaken about the citizenship of the defendants when she filed the Original Complaint.

The Court granted the motion to dismiss the Original Complaint, but gave Sullivan leave to amend the Complaint to correct her mistakes.[12] Sullivan did so and, through counsel, filed an amended complaint (the "Amended Complaint") in which she alleges complete diversity.[13] Sullivan also for the first time asserted a cause of action for copyright infringement in the Amended Complaint, and now alleges that federal question jurisdiction exists pursuant to sections 1331 and 1338 of title 28 of the United States Code.[14]

III. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion to Dismiss Under ...


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