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Brown v. National Basketball Association

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 26, 2019

KIMBERLY BERNICE BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION; TAMERA YOUNG, WBNA Athlete, Defendants.

          ORDER OF DISMISSAL

          GREGORY H. WOODS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE:

         By order dated September 20, 2019, the Court granted Plaintiff Kimberly Bernice Brown, of Baltimore, Maryland, who appears pro se and proceeds in forma pauperis, leave to file a second amended complaint. On November 5, 2019, Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint and an application for the Court to request pro bono counsel. Plaintiff invokes the Court's diversity jurisdiction. She sues the National Basketball Association (“NBA”), of New York, New York, and Tamera Young, a professional basketball player, of Smyrna, Georgia. Plaintiff seeks more than $1, 000, 000 in damages. For the reasons discussed below, the Court dismisses this action.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court must dismiss an in forma pauperis complaint, or any portion of the complaint, that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B); see Livingston v. Adirondack Beverage Co., 141 F.3d 434, 437 (2d Cir. 1998). The Court must also dismiss a complaint when the Court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3).

         While the law mandates dismissal on any of these grounds, the Court is obliged to construe pro se pleadings liberally, Harris v. Mills, 572 F.3d 66, 72 (2d Cir. 2009), and interpret them to raise the “strongest [claims] that they suggest, ” Triestman v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 470 F.3d 471, 474 (2d Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted, emphasis in original). But the “special solicitude” in pro se cases, id. at 475 (citation omitted), has its limits - to state a claim, pro se pleadings still must comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires a complaint to make a short and plain statement showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.

         The United States Supreme Court has held that under Rule 8, a complaint must include enough facts to state a claim for relief “that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim is facially plausible if the plaintiff pleads enough factual detail to allow the Court to draw the inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. In reviewing the complaint, the Court must accept all well-pleaded factual allegations as true. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). But it does not have to accept as true “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, ” which are essentially just legal conclusions. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). After separating legal conclusions from well-pleaded factual allegations, the Court must determine whether those facts make it plausible - not merely possible - that the pleader is entitled to relief. Id. at 678-79.

         BACKGROUND

         A. The Court's September 20, 2019 order

         In its September 20, 2019 order, the Court determined that Plaintiff's amended complaint and its supplements[1] did not allege sufficient facts to state a claim for relief against the NBA, then the sole defendant.

         Although Plaintiff alleged in her amended complaint that she had an agreement with the NBA, she did not attach a copy of it or describe the parties' obligations under it. She alleged t hat Tamera Young, a professional basketball player, made unwanted advances toward her, and that she complained to the NBA, but the NBA terminated its agreement with her and took no action on her complaints. She further alleged that the NBA, Young, and others have been tracking, slandering, bullying, and tormenting her, as well as discriminating against her. But Plaintiff did not allege any plausible facts suggesting that the NBA itself carried out those acts. Nor did she allege any facts suggesting how the NBA is legally responsible for Young's conduct or anyone else's conduct.

         For those reasons, the Court determined that Plaintiff had failed to state a claim against the NBA. (See ECF 10, at 4-6.) The Court granted Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint to allege any facts sufficient to state a claim for relief.

         B. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint

         Plaintiff's allegations in her second amended complaint are similar to those in her amended complaint. But unlike her amended complaint, Plaintiff's second amended complaint names both the NBA and Tamera Young as defendants.

         Plaintiff alleges that she had some sort of business agreement with the NBA regarding the creation of a television program about female professional basketball players, including Young. She states that the “relationship . . . between [her] and the [NBA], [was] both written and verbal.” (ECF 12, at 9.) She alleges that she was “a hired writer and producer, ” and that “the contract was verbally agreed upon by the team of Aldo DiCuffa, Vice President [of] Programming with NBA [E]ntertainment.” (Id.) She also alleges that she “was hired to produce a six episode docuseries about the lifestyle[s] of five professional female basketball players for ‘Off the Court[:] Inside the WNBA.'” (Id.) She further alleges that her salary for “a ...


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