Cline v. Reetz-Laiolo, Related Case Nos. 3:17-cv-06866-WHO

CourtUnited States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
Citation329 F.Supp.3d 1000
Decision Date28 June 2018
Docket Number3:17-cv-06867-WHO,Related Case Nos. 3:17-cv-06866-WHO
Parties Emma CLINE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Chaz REETZ-LAIOLO, Defendant. Chaz Reetz-Laiolo, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Emma Cline, et al., Defendants.

329 F.Supp.3d 1000

Emma CLINE, et al., Plaintiffs,
Chaz REETZ-LAIOLO, Defendant.

Chaz Reetz-Laiolo, et al., Plaintiffs,
Emma Cline, et al., Defendants.

Related Case Nos. 3:17-cv-06866-WHO

United States District Court, N.D. California.

Signed June 28, 2018

329 F.Supp.3d 1013

Abigail Bain Everdell, Michael Vatis, Elizabeth A. McNamara, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, New York, NY, Joy Gowoon Kim, Thomas R. Burke, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, San Francisco, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Edward John Normand, Jackie Larosa Jakab, Kyle William Roche, Nathan Andrew Holcomb, Amos Emory Friedland, Boies, Schiller, Flexner LLP, Armonk, NY, Katherine Ann Eskovitz, Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, Oakland, CA, Benjamin Hans Diessel, Kevin Michael Smith, Leslie Anne Cahill, Wiggin and Dana LLP, New Haven, CT, Sapna Walter Palla, Wiggin and Dana LLP, New York, NY, for Defendant.


Re: Dkt. Nos. 34 (Case No. 17-cv-6866); Dkt. No. 46 (Case No. 17-cv-6867)

William H. Orrick, United States District Judge


This litigation is grist for its own novel. From 2009 through 2012, Emma Cline, author of the 2016 best-selling novel The Girls , was romantically involved with writer Chaz Reetz-Laiolo, who is 13 years her senior. She accuses him of domestic abuse and other terrible conduct during and after their relationship. And he accuses her of awful conduct, including stealing his work for her book and intruding into his email and bank accounts, and the email accounts of Kari Bernard, their mutual friend and former roommate, and Kristin Kiesel, a romantic partner of Reetz-Laiolo.

After a year of trying to settle their dispute out of court, the parties filed separate lawsuits, which were subsequently related. Cline, The Clegg Agency (her literary agent), and Penguin Random House LLC (publisher of The Girls ) bring claims for declaratory judgment of non-infringement and preemption of Reetz-Laiolo's conversion and civil theft claims. Cline also brings a claim for declaratory judgment on

329 F.Supp.3d 1014

certain statutes of limitations. And she asserts claims for conversion, domestic violence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with prospective economic advantage. He brings claims for copyright infringement, conversion, trespass to chattels, civil theft, and intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress. Bernard and Kiesel join him in asserting claims under the Federal Stored Communications Act, Federal Wiretap Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, California Invasion of Privacy Act, California Computer Crime Law, the California Constitution, and for intrusion upon seclusion. This order addresses the parties' motions to dismiss.



A. The Relationship and The Dispute1

In June 2009, Cline was a 20-year-old college student when she met 33-year-old Reetz-Laiolo, a writer and lecturer at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Cline Compl. ¶¶ 55, 57 (Dkt. No. 1); Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶¶ 32–35, 38 (Dkt. No. 38). Prior to that, Cline had published short stories in various publications, including Tin House , Post Road Magazine, and The Paris Review. Cline Compl. ¶ 57; Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶ 37. Reetz-Laiolo had also published works in publications, including The Paris Review. Cline Compl. ¶ 28; Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶ 30. The two soon became romantically involved; she thereafter withdrew from college and moved in with Reetz-Laiolo in December 2009. Cline Compl. ¶ 55; Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 38–39. Cline lived with Reetz-Laiolo in Berkeley until the fall of 2011, when she moved to New York to begin a Masters in Fine Arts program at Columbia University. Cline Compl. ¶¶ 55, 72; Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶¶ 39, 41 The relationship continued off and on until February 2012, after which the two remained in contact. Cline Compl. ¶¶ 55, 77; Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶¶ 42–43.2 They shared drafts of their writing both during and after the relationship ended. Cline Compl. ¶ 20, 28.

By September 2014, Cline had completed a draft of The Girls. Cline Compl. ¶ 20; Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶¶ 159–60. She had repeatedly asked Reetz-Laiolo to read her drafts, "both because she wanted his input and so he would be aware that certain facts from his life and their shared life had been included." Cline Compl. ¶ 20; see Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶ 163 (explaining that he initially declined to read the draft novel because "[h]e wished to avoid further emotional entanglement with her").

On October 3, 2014, Penguin Random House LLC ("Random House") bought the rights to publish The Girls for $2 million. Cline Compl. ¶ 22; Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶ 161. Cline called Reetz-Laiolo shortly after to tell him her novel had sold. Cline Compl. ¶ 22. According to Reetz-Laiolo, Cline sent him a G-chat message on November 28, 2014, stating "i will be exposed as a plagiarizer ... paid 40 bucks to run novel through online plagiarism detector." Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶ 162.

On February 24, 2015, he finally agreed to read the manuscript, but days later changed his mind and asked Cline to "send him any passages she thought might concern him[.]" Cline Compl. ¶ 29. But see Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. (indicating that Cline refused to send the manuscript and instead sent a document with excerpts). On March 3, 2015, she sent him "eight brief

329 F.Supp.3d 1015

phrases and snippets from her draft novel, then 355-pages, that she thought he should know about." Cline Compl. ¶ 30; Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶ 165; see also Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶¶ 165–167.

On October 12, 2015, Reetz-Laiolo requested a draft of The Girls manuscript that was sold to Random House.3 Cline Compl. ¶ 31; Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶¶ 168–170. Cline informed him that the earlier version had been edited and revised over the intervening months, but he demanded to see the version sold to Random House. Cline Compl. ¶ 32. On October 14, 2015, she sent him this version. Cline Compl. ¶ 32; see Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶ 171 (noting that she sent a version of the manuscript "that she created that very same day[,]" and recognizing that certain sentences included in the previous chart had been removed from this version of the draft). On November 3, 2015, Reetz-Laiolo wrote to Cline, "I would not publish this novel if I were you. It is vile how much of my work you have plagiarized in it." Reetz-Laiolo Am. Compl. ¶ 172.

On January 15, 2016, Reetz-Laiolo sent Cline a demand letter, itemizing 36 instances of "infringement." Cline Compl. ¶ 35; Reetz-Laiolo ¶¶ 9, 177.4 Cline agreed to remove the identified snippets.5 Cline Compl. ¶ 38. Reetz-Laiolo later identified a draft screenplay entitled All Sea as the source of the material he claims was copied. Cline Compl. ¶ 41. Reetz-Laiolo had emailed her a copy of this draft screenplay under the file name "Fadein.doc" on September 4, 2011. Cline Compl. ¶ 41.

On June 14, 2016, The Girls was published in hardcover to widespread acclaim. Cline Compl. ¶ 43. It debuted at number three on The New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list, and remained on the list for 12 weeks. Id.

On February 21, 2017, Reetz-Laiolo's new (current) counsel sent Cline and Random House a demand letter setting forth two theories of copyright infringement. Cline Compl. ¶¶ 45–47. On February 22, 2017, the parties entered into a tolling agreement. See Reetz-Laiolo MTD at 5 (Dkt. No. 34). On March 30, 2017, Reetz-Laiolo's counsel followed up with a draft complaint (the "First Draft Complaint").6 Cline Compl. ¶¶ 89–90.

On May 26, 2017, Reetz-Laiolo's counsel provided Cline with five separate drafts of All Sea , but later claimed that portions of the challenged passages originated from only one of the five drafts, dated June 17, 2013. Cline Compl. ¶ 50; see 6/17/13 All Sea Draft (Cline Compl., Ex. A). According to Cline, Reetz-Laiolo's counsel indicated that the remainder originated from two later drafts, dated December 26, 2013 and June 24, 2014, respectively. Cline Compl. ¶ 50; see 12/26/13 All Sea Draft (Cline Compl. Ex. B); 6/24/14 All Sea Draft (Cline Compl., Ex. C). These versions were provided to Cline and Random House for the first time on July 28, 2017. Cline Compl. ¶ 50.

329 F.Supp.3d 1016

B. The Works

1. Cline's The Girls

In 2008, Cline composed three short stories that "contained the conceptual seeds ... that would develop over the years into The Girls. " Cline Compl. ¶¶ 17, 18. Those seeds were "the close, formative relationship between adolescent girls, the setting of a Sonoma County commune in the 1960s, and the dark underbelly of violence reflected in the Manson Family story[.]" Id. ¶ 17. She also incorporated factual details from her life, including information she learned while dating Reetz-Laiolo. Id. ¶ 19. She completed a draft manuscript of The Girls in September 2014. Id. ¶ 20. That same month, Cline's literary agency (The Clegg Agency) sent the manuscript to publishers, and...

To continue reading

Request your trial
24 cases
  • Seale v. Peacock
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • April 27, 2022
    ...and requesting supplemental briefing about whether the elements identified are complete and accurate).9 See Cline v. Reetz-Laiolo , 329 F. Supp. 3d 1000, 1045–46 (N.D. Cal. 2018) ; Aguiar v. MySpace LLC , CV 14-05520 SJO (PJWx), 2017 WL 1856229, at *9–10 (C.D. Cal. May 5, 2017) ; Chavan v. ......
  • Saleh v. Nike, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • September 27, 2021
    ...Act of 1986]" (the "Wiretap Act"). Brodsky v. Apple Inc. , 445 F. Supp. 3d 110, 127 (N.D. Cal. 2020) (quoting Cline v. Reetz-Laiolo , 329 F. Supp. 3d 1000, 1051 (N.D. Cal. 2018) ). Under the Wiretap Act, "contents" is defined as "any information concerning the substance, purport, or meaning......
  • Brodsky v. Apple Inc., Case No. 19-CV-00712-LHK
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • April 7, 2020
    ...any communication). "The analysis for a violation of CIPA is the same as that under the federal Wiretap Act." Cline v. Reetz-Laiolo , 329 F. Supp. 3d 1000, 1051 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (citation omitted). Under the Wiretap Act, the term "contents" is defined as "any information concerning the subs......
  • Ramachandran v. City of L. Altos
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Northern District of California
    • February 13, 2019
    ...(3) plaintiff's emotional distress is actually and proximately the result of defendant's outrageous conduct." Cline v. Reetz-Laiolo , 329 F.Supp.3d 1000, 1053 (N.D. Cal. 2018) (quoting Conley v. Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco , 85 Cal. App. 4th 1126, 1133, 102 Cal.Rptr.2d 679 (2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT