O'BRIEN v. Alexander, No. 94 Civ. 5400 (DC).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Writing for the CourtSchulte Roth & Zabel by Jonathan Taylor, Brooks R. Burdette, New York City, for defendants
PartiesDavid J. O'BRIEN, Plaintiff, v. Norman E. ALEXANDER, Stuart Z. Krinsly, Gerald S. Gutterman, John J. Quicke, Ellen T. Harmon, Schulte Roth & Zabel, David Brodsky, Chaye Zuckerman Shapot, Sequa Corporation, Sequa Capital Corporation, and John Does 1-5, Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 94 Civ. 5400 (DC).
Decision Date29 August 1995

898 F. Supp. 162

David J. O'BRIEN, Plaintiff,
v.
Norman E. ALEXANDER, Stuart Z. Krinsly, Gerald S. Gutterman, John J. Quicke, Ellen T. Harmon, Schulte Roth & Zabel, David Brodsky, Chaye Zuckerman Shapot, Sequa Corporation, Sequa Capital Corporation, and John Does 1-5, Defendants.

No. 94 Civ. 5400 (DC).

United States District Court, S.D. New York.

August 29, 1995.


898 F. Supp. 163

Charles B. Manuel, Jr., New York City, for plaintiff.

Schulte Roth & Zabel by Jonathan Taylor, Brooks R. Burdette, New York City, for defendants.

898 F. Supp. 164

OPINION

CHIN, District Judge.

Plaintiff David J. O'Brien alleges in this action that defendants damaged his reputation and career by committing various torts—malicious prosecution, abuse of process, defamation, negligence, prima facie tort, general tort and tortious interference with contract—as well as by violating the New York Judiciary Law. He has named as defendants not only his former employer, but also certain corporate officers as well as the attorneys who represented his former employer in prior litigation.

Before the Court are the following motions: (i) defendants' motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim; (ii) plaintiff's cross-motion for leave to file a second amended complaint; (iii) defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions; and (iv) plaintiff's cross-motion for Rule 11 sanctions.

Plaintiff's cross-motion for leave to file a second amended complaint was filed in response to defendants' motion to dismiss. In their reply papers, however, defendants addressed the adequacy of the allegations of the proposed second amended complaint, and at oral argument both sides addressed the proposed second amended complaint. Hence, as a threshold matter, plaintiff's cross-motion for leave to file a second amended complaint is granted and the proposed second amended complaint is deemed filed as of the date the cross-motion was filed. In considering defendants' motion to dismiss, I have analyzed the issues presented on the basis of the second amended complaint.

For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted; defendants' motion for Rule 11 sanctions is granted; and plaintiff's cross-motion for Rule 11 sanctions is denied.

STATEMENT OF THE CASE1

Defendant Sequa Corporation ("Sequa") is a diversified manufacturing corporation. From 1973 to 1986, plaintiff served as Sequa's vice president and treasurer. In 1986, plaintiff founded and became president, and later chief executive officer, of defendant Sequa Capital Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Sequa ("SCC" and together with Sequa, the "Sequa Defendants"). Plaintiff was dismissed from his position as chief executive officer in January 1991, without warning and without any reasons given for his dismissal.

Immediately following his discharge, plaintiff was told by one of Sequa's attorneys that he would be given a severance package. About one month later, plaintiff met with defendants Alexander (Sequa's chairman), Krinsly (senior executive vice president and general counsel), Harmon (associate general counsel), and Gutterman (chief financial officer), purportedly to discuss the severance package. When plaintiff objected to Sequa's legal counsel being present, Alexander (who is an attorney) assured plaintiff that he would act as plaintiff's lawyer. Alexander further promised that he would protect plaintiff, that plaintiff would "not be hurt" by remaining at the meeting, and that Alexander would personally arrange the severance package as plaintiff's lawyer. (Cmplt. ¶¶ 22-23). The meeting lasted approximately 2-3 hours during which time defendants induced plaintiff to furnish information that was later used in a lawsuit against him.

While plaintiff was employed by Sequa, the Sequa Defendants maintained a relationship with a consulting company, GBJ Corporation ("GBJ"). In 1991, GBJ and its president, Jeffrey Gelmin, brought a lawsuit against the Sequa Defendants for unpaid fees and commissions (the "Sequa Case").2 In October 1991, plaintiff met with Krinsly concerning the Sequa Defendants' relationship with GBJ and Gelmin. At that meeting, defendants attempted to coerce plaintiff into falsely giving

898 F. Supp. 165
testimony against Gelmin in the Sequa Case. Plaintiff, however, refused, and as a result defendants again denied plaintiff his severance package. (Cmplt. ¶ 31)

In August 1992, plaintiff was named as a co-defendant in the Sequa Case by the Sequa Defendants for allegedly conspiring with Gelmin to commit fraud against them. Plaintiff alleges that the Sequa Defendants knew the allegations against him were false and yet they proceeded to disseminate the false statements. (Cmplt. ¶ 31). In July 1993, the Sequa Defendants voluntarily discontinued their claims against plaintiff without prejudice, after the court in that case (Haight, J.) ruled that the Sequa Defendants were obligated to indemnify plaintiff for the costs of defending against the claims that they had asserted against him.

Defendants also purportedly coerced Edward J. Piszko, who served as administrative vice president of SCC at the same time plaintiff was president, into signing an affidavit containing false statements of wrongdoing by plaintiff and Gelmin. This affidavit was allegedly authored by defendants Shapot and Harmon and was used as a basis for the claims brought by the Sequa Defendants against plaintiff and Gelmin. (Cmplt. ¶¶ 36-46).

On July 30, 1992, Sequa filed an insurance claim for damages caused by employee dishonesty, based on the alleged dishonest acts of plaintiff, Piszko and Gelmin (the "Insurance Claim"). The claim was grounded, in part, on the allegedly false statements contained in the Piszko affidavit. (Cmplt. ¶ 47).

Plaintiff commenced this action on July 22, 1994, and amended his complaint on July 27, 1994. Plaintiff complains that defendants engaged in a "campaign to destroy plaintiff" through their various purportedly tortious acts. In the second amended complaint, plaintiff also alleges that defendant Brodsky —one of Sequa's attorneys in the Sequa Case—made a number of purportedly false and defamatory statements about plaintiff in his opening statement to the Court at the trial of the Sequa Case. (Cmplt. ¶¶ 64a, b, c, d, e; see also Cmplt. ¶ 91j).

The second amended complaint seeks $23,996,000 in "special damages," $50,000,000 in "general damages," $221,988,000 in "treble damages," and $50,000,000 in "punitive damages."

DISCUSSION

I. Defendants' Motion To Dismiss

A. Standards for Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss

In analyzing defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, I must view plaintiff's second amended complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff and accept all allegations contained in the complaint as true. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 1686, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974); Annis v. County of Westchester, 36 F.3d 251, 253 (2d Cir.1994). Giving plaintiff the benefit of the inferences in his favor, the complaint should not be dismissed unless it appears beyond a doubt that plaintiff can prove no set of facts that would entitle him to relief. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 101-03, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Christ Gatzonis Electrical Contractor, Inc. v. New York City School Construction Authority, 23 F.3d 636, 639 (2d Cir. 1994). With these standards in mind, I turn to defendants' motion to dismiss.

B. Plaintiff's Claims

1. Malicious Prosecution

To succeed on his claim for malicious prosecution of a civil action, plaintiff must show that: 1) defendants maliciously commenced and continued an action against plaintiff; 2) the proceeding was terminated in favor of plaintiff or under circumstances "such that innocence is indicated"3; 3) probable cause for the proceeding was lacking;

898 F. Supp. 166
and 4) plaintiff's person or property was interfered with by the issuance of a provisional remedy, e.g., attachment or arrest. See Sharma v. Skaarup Ship Management Corp., 699 F.Supp. 440, 448 (S.D.N.Y.1988), aff'd, 916 F.2d 820 (2d Cir.1990), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 907, 111 S.Ct. 1109, 113 L.Ed.2d 218 (1991); Molinoff v. Sassower, 99 A.D.2d 528, 529, 471 N.Y.S.2d 312, 313-14 (2d Dep't 1984)

Defendants contend that plaintiff's claim for malicious prosecution should be dismissed because the proceeding did not result in the issuance of a provisional remedy that interfered with plaintiff's person or property. I agree. Plaintiff essentially concedes that no provisional remedy, such as attachment or arrest, was issued against him in the Sequa Case. (See Pl.Mem. in Opp. to Motion to Dismiss at 6). This failure to allege the issuance of a provisional remedy is fatal to plaintiff's malicious prosecution claim. See Church of Scientology of California v. Siegelman, 94 F.R.D. 735, 736 (S.D.N.Y.1982) (citing Kalso Systemet v. Jacobs, 474 F.Supp. 666, 670 (S.D.N.Y.1979)) (malicious prosecution claim that fails to allege issuance of provisional remedy is defective); Sokol v. Sofokles, 136 A.D.2d 535, 536, 523 N.Y.S.2d 155, 157 (2d Dep't 1988) (dismissal of claim for malicious prosecution affirmed since "mere service of a summons and complaint without further interference from some provisional remedy does not rise to the level of malicious prosecution"); Molinoff, 471 N.Y.S.2d at 314 (affirming dismissal of malicious prosecution claim where amended complaint failed to allege sufficient interference with plaintiff's person or property).4

Defendants argue that the malicious prosecution claim should also be dismissed on the independent grounds that the discontinuance of the Sequa Case against plaintiff was not a termination of that proceeding in his favor. In the Sequa Case, Judge Haight ruled that the Sequa Defendants were obligated under BCL § 724(c) to indemnify plaintiff for his legal costs in the Sequa Case.5 As a result of Judge Haight's ruling, the Sequa Defendants were put in the position of reimbursing...

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66 practice notes
  • Sang v. Ming Hai & Law Offices of Ming Hai, P.C., No. 12 Civ. 7103(JPO).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • June 27, 2013
    ...claims are broader than her breach of confidentiality claim, they are duplicative of her defamation claims. See O'Brien v. Alexander, 898 F.Supp. 162, 172 (S.D.N.Y.1995) (Chin, J.) (“Where tort claims essentially restate a defamation claim that has been dismissed on a motion to dismiss, the......
  • Nevin v. Citibank, N.A., No. 00 CIV. 0029(CM).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 28, 2000
    ...Citibank or CCSI. See Idaho Potato Commission v. M&M Produce Farms & Sales, 35 F.Supp.2d 313, 324 (S.D.N.Y.1999); O'Brien v. Alexander, 898 F.Supp. 162, 174 (S.D.N.Y.1995), aff'd in pertinent part, 101 F.3d 1479 (2d Cir.1996). Nevin's conclusory allegation that these defendants acted "malic......
  • Enigma Software Grp. USA, LLC v. Bleeping Computer LLC, 16 Civ. 57 (PAE)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • July 8, 2016
    ...as duplicative of defamation claim where all alleged injuries arose out of the allegedly defamatory statements); O'Brien v. Alexander , 898 F.Supp. 162, 172 (S.D.N.Y.1995) (injurious falsehood claim was duplicative of defamation claim where it "relie[d] on the same statements [and alleged d......
  • Michelo v. Nat'l Collegiate Student Loan Trust 2007-2, 18 Civ. 1781 (PGG), 18 Civ. 7692 (PGG)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • October 11, 2019
    ...Defendants cite in support of their invocation of the litigation privilege are defamation actions, see, e.g., O'Brien v. Alexander, 898 F. Supp. 162 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) ; aff'd in part, 101 F.3d 1479 (2d Cir. 1996) ; Kelly v. Albarino, 485 F.3d 664 (2d Cir. 2007) ; Bletas v. Deluca, No. 11 CIV.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
66 cases
  • Sang v. Ming Hai & Law Offices of Ming Hai, P.C., No. 12 Civ. 7103(JPO).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • June 27, 2013
    ...claims are broader than her breach of confidentiality claim, they are duplicative of her defamation claims. See O'Brien v. Alexander, 898 F.Supp. 162, 172 (S.D.N.Y.1995) (Chin, J.) (“Where tort claims essentially restate a defamation claim that has been dismissed on a motion to dismiss, the......
  • Nevin v. Citibank, N.A., No. 00 CIV. 0029(CM).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • July 28, 2000
    ...Citibank or CCSI. See Idaho Potato Commission v. M&M Produce Farms & Sales, 35 F.Supp.2d 313, 324 (S.D.N.Y.1999); O'Brien v. Alexander, 898 F.Supp. 162, 174 (S.D.N.Y.1995), aff'd in pertinent part, 101 F.3d 1479 (2d Cir.1996). Nevin's conclusory allegation that these defendants acted "malic......
  • Enigma Software Grp. USA, LLC v. Bleeping Computer LLC, 16 Civ. 57 (PAE)
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • July 8, 2016
    ...as duplicative of defamation claim where all alleged injuries arose out of the allegedly defamatory statements); O'Brien v. Alexander , 898 F.Supp. 162, 172 (S.D.N.Y.1995) (injurious falsehood claim was duplicative of defamation claim where it "relie[d] on the same statements [and alleged d......
  • Michelo v. Nat'l Collegiate Student Loan Trust 2007-2, 18 Civ. 1781 (PGG), 18 Civ. 7692 (PGG)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • October 11, 2019
    ...Defendants cite in support of their invocation of the litigation privilege are defamation actions, see, e.g., O'Brien v. Alexander, 898 F. Supp. 162 (S.D.N.Y. 1995) ; aff'd in part, 101 F.3d 1479 (2d Cir. 1996) ; Kelly v. Albarino, 485 F.3d 664 (2d Cir. 2007) ; Bletas v. Deluca, No. 11 CIV.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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