Medcalf v. Walsh

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Citation938 F.Supp.2d 478
Docket NumberNo. 12 Civ. 5091(PAE).,12 Civ. 5091(PAE).
PartiesValerie MEDCALF, Plaintiff, v. Evelyn WALSH and George J. Walsh, III, Defendants.
Decision Date09 April 2013

938 F.Supp.2d 478

Valerie MEDCALF, Plaintiff,
Evelyn WALSH and George J. Walsh, III, Defendants.

No. 12 Civ. 5091(PAE).

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

April 9, 2013.

[938 F.Supp.2d 481]

Robert Paul Gammel, Steven E. Savage, Law Office of Steven E. Savage, New York, NY, for Plaintiff.

Peter N. Moore, Edwards Wildman Palmer, LLP, Chicago, IL, Zachary Winthrop Silverman, Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, New York, NY, for Defendants.


PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

This case involves a lawsuit by a legal secretary, Valerie Medcalf, against the law firm partner for whom she worked, George J. Walsh III, and the partner's wife, Evelyn Walsh. Medcalf's claims arise out of her discovery of emails between the Walshes commenting upon her, which in turn touched off a series of events that led the law firm, Thomson Hine LLP (“TH”), to terminate her. Medcalf brings claims for: (1) conspiracy to commit tortious interference with business relations, (2) tortious

[938 F.Supp.2d 482]

interference with business relations, (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress, and (4) defamation. Defendants move to dismiss Medcalf's Amended Complaint. For the reasons that follow, that motion is granted.

I. BackgroundA. Factual Background1

Between May 4, 2005, and February 28, 2012, Medcalf worked as a legal secretary in the New York City office of TH. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10, 37. On June 17, 2005, she was permanently assigned to support defendant George J. Walsh, III (“George”), a partner in the firm. Id. ¶ 11. Among Medcalf's duties were answering George's phone and placing calls for him. Id. ¶ 12. Through those duties, Medcalf first met defendant Evelyn Walsh (“Evelyn”), who married George on June 24, 2006, and whose wedding Medcalf attended as an invited guest. Id. ¶¶ 9, 12.

As part of her job responsibilities, Medcalf was given, in writing, full access to George's Outlook email account. Id. ¶ 13. She was required often to access George's email account to locate materials that George needed to do his job. Id. ¶ 14. Medcalf had authorized access to George's account until February 21, 2012, a week before her termination. Id. ¶ 35.

In fall 2010, Medcalf became pregnant. Id. ¶ 15. Medcalf believed that George had a “negative attitude” toward Medcalf because of her regular prenatal appointments. Id. ¶ 16. Following the birth of her baby in May 2011, Medcalf began experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression and associated mental health issues, including severe anxiety and panic attacks. Id. ¶ 18. On or about August 5, 2011, Medcalf began her leave from TH to tend to these issues. Id. ¶ 21. On or about August 8, 2011, Dr. Wei Wang, a psychiatrist, advised Medcalf that the severity of her postpartum-related mental issues would likely require her to take up to five months of leave from TH. Id. ¶ 22.

On Friday August 12, 2011, Medcalf told George and her TH supervisors, by email, of the need for a five-month leave based on that diagnosis. Id. ¶ 23, Ex. A. In the email, Medcalf asked that the email's contents be kept confidential. Id. Ex. A. On or about October 4, 2011, Medcalf began regular psychiatric treatment with Dr. Paul Schneck, who, as of the date of the Amended Complaint, continued to treat Medcalf. Id. ¶ 24.

On November 21, 2011, Medcalf returned to TH. She learned that a different legal secretary had been assigned to George. Id. ¶¶ 25–26. However, Medcalf remained George's back-up secretary and George continued to ask Medcalf to locate emails that George needed to perform his work duties. Id. ¶ 27.

On or about December 15, 2011, Evelyn and Medcalf saw each other at TH's offices, and Evelyn asked about Medcalf's well-being. Id. ¶ 28. Medcalf told Evelyn that she was seeing a psychologist and on medication. Medcalf states that she felt “intimated [ sic ] because of [Evelyn]'s status as a partner's wife.” Id.

On February 20, 2012, while performing her regular duties, Medcalf discovered an email exchange between George and Evelyn dated August 12, 2011. In the first email in the exchange, George forwarded to Evelyn the email that he had received from Medcalf the same day, announcing her five-month leave. He wrote: “Note this.” Id. Ex. A. In response, Evelyn wrote:

[938 F.Supp.2d 483]

I thought she said she had an emergency doctors [ sic ] appointment, why the ER? ... But generally true post partum depression appears after a few months and I'd ask why they're asking for five months so early in the process.... Is it coincidence that that this gives her the rest of the year off and eligible for disability benefits? Sorry, I hope she ok but it just all seems suspect to me.

Id. Evelyn concluded her email to her husband: “All the Monday's and Friday's off, and other stuff which has been ongoing. You don't need this. You've been very good to her. You deserve someone you can rely on.” Id.

After finding the August 12, 2011 email exchange between George and Evelyn, Medcalf discovered other email exchanges between George and Evelyn, many including emails from Medcalf that George had forwarded to Evelyn. Id. ¶¶ 31–32. In one, dated August 31, 2011, George told Evelyn that he had emailed Medcalf to ask about her well-being following Hurricane Irene, and attached his email exchange with Medcalf. Id. Ex. B. Responding to George, Evelyn reiterated her skepticism of Medcalf's difficulties: “Once again I have to say that [Medcalf] doesn't act like a person who has such severe post partum that she can't work. The email is not indicative of any mood disorder and she talks right along.” Id.

Medcalf also discovered a June 30, 2011 email exchange between George and Evelyn, in which George forwarded a picture of Medcalf's infant, which Medcalf had sent to several people at TH. George wrote to Evelyn: “The first picture of Valerie's baby. Very cute!!” Id. Ex. C. In response to George, Evelyn wrote, “[The baby] is adorable but if [Medcalf] had had a decent shower she would have some nice cotton, clean and non fuzzy blankets to safely sleep [the baby] on. Ugh. It's good that [Medcalf] seems to have bonded with her though and is exited [ sic ] enough to share pictures, that's a good sign.” Id.

Ultimately, Medcalf discovered seven additional email exchanges between George and Evelyn, spanning August 3, 2009, to August 5, 2011. Id. Ex. E. The email exchanges generally take the form of (1) emails from Medcalf to George reporting that she would not be at work that day, which George then forwarded to Evelyn with such comments as: “UGH!!!!”; “No Valerie today”; “Not a good way to start the week”; “This is not good. I'll email Carol for coverage,” id.; and (2) replies by Evelyn, including commentary such as: “And you are so busy today and need her. This sounds fishy. It's a nice day and a Monday. I'm sorry”; “I hope this is not the shape of things to come. Isn't it suspect that these little emergencies are always on Friday or Monday? It's so not fair to you. You need her to be there”; and, “She doesn't say she's sick. You should ask her what's wrong with her.” Id.

On February 21, 2012, one day after discovering these email exchanges, Medcalf emailed Evelyn to confront her. Medcalf carbon copied George and blind carbon copied her TH supervisors. Id. ¶ 33. Medcalf accused Evelyn of making “despicable and disgusting remarks” about Medcalf's daughter and requested that Evelyn “stop disrespecting [Medcalf]” and “stop disrespecting [Medcalf's] daughter.” Id. Ex. F. Evelyn responded to Medcalf's email within an hour, carbon copying George. Id. In her response, Evelyn apologized if she was “unfairly judgemental” regarding Medcalf's absences and explained that her concern had been for the effect that Medcalf's absences had on George. Id. Evelyn denied making negative comments about Medcalf's daughter and expressed good wishes for Medcalf's daughter. Id.

[938 F.Supp.2d 484]

On February 22, 2012, Medcalf approached the TH supervisors whom she had blind copied on her email to Evelyn, seeking “guidance because of the politically volatile” situation. Id. ¶ 33. Medcalf's supervisors informed her they would investigate the matter in consultation with the firm's human resources department. Id.

Medcalf then responded to Evelyn's email from the previous day, again carbon copying George and blind carbon copying her TH supervisors. Id. ¶ 34 & Ex. F. Medcalf reiterated her claim that Evelyn had made disparaging remarks about Medcalf's baby; she asserted that the email exchanges between Evelyn and George during her pregnancy “amount to discrimination based on pregnancy.” Id. She also claimed that she had discovered the series of email exchanges over a period of time—discovering the August 31, 2011 email exchange during her work duties and another exchange upon her return from a vacation or other leave day. Id.2

Later in the day on February 22, 2012, Medcalf's access to George's Outlook account was terminated. At approximately 2:30 p.m., Medcalf's TH supervisor instructed her to leave the office pending investigation of the matter. Id. ¶¶ 35–36. On or about February 28, 2012, TH terminated Medcalf's employment. Id. ¶ 37.

B. Procedural History

On June 29, 2012, Medcalf filed her initial Complaint. Dkt. 1. On October 22, 2012, after defendants moved to dismiss, Medcalf filed an Amended Complaint. Dkt. 15. The basis for jurisdiction is diversity jurisdiction, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Am. Compl. ¶ 4.3

On November 12, 2013, defendants moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint. Dkt. 17–19. On December 3, 2012, Medcalf filed her brief in opposition. Dkt. 20. On December 12, 2012, defendants filed a reply brief. Dkt. 22. On February 26, 2013, the Court heard argument on the motion.

II. Applicable Legal Standard

In resolving a motion to dismiss, the Court must “construe the Complaint liberally, accepting all factual allegations in the Complaint as true, and drawing all reasonable inferences in plaintiff['s] favor.” Galiano v. Fid. Nat'l Title Ins. Co., 684 F.3d 309, 311...

To continue reading

Request your trial
53 cases
  • Sharp v. Ally Fin., Inc., 6:15-CV-06520 EAW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Western District of New York
    • September 10, 2018
    ...emotional distress; (iii) a causal connection between the conduct and injury; and (iv) severe emotional distress.’ " Medcalf v. Walsh , 938 F.Supp.2d 478, 488 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (quoting Howell v. N.Y. Post Co. , 81 N.Y.2d 115, 121, 596 N.Y.S.2d 350, 612 N.E.2d 699 (1993) ). " ‘Liability has b......
  • Appel v. Schoeman Updike Kaufman Stern & Ascher L. L.P., 14-cv-2065 (AJN)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • March 26, 2015
    ...standard "is to filter out trivial complaints and assure that the claim of severe emotional distress is genuine." Medcalf v. Walsh, 938 F. Supp. 2d 478, 488 (S.D.N.Y. 2013) (citing Howell, 612 N.E.2d at 703). "The conduct must be 'so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to ......
  • Kamdem-Ouaffo v. Pepsico, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • January 26, 2016
    ...level of fault, and (4) either the false statement was defamatory per se or caused the plaintiff special harm.” Medcalf v. Walsh , 938 F.Supp.2d 478, 485 (S.D.N.Y.2013). In the instant Action, Plaintiff cannot satisfy these elements because the document to which Plaintiff refers as containi......
  • Restis v. Am. Coal. Against Nuclear Iran, Inc.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • September 30, 2014
    ...actionable if either the facts on which they rely are false or if the statements mischaracterized the facts. See Medcalf v. Walsh, 938 F.Supp.2d 478, 486 (S.D.N.Y.2013) ( “ ‘[A] statement of opinion that is accompanied by a recitation of the facts on which it is based or one that does not i......
  • 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