A Slice of Pie Productions v. Wayans Bros.

Decision Date21 September 2005
Docket NumberNo. 3:04 CV 1034 JBA.,3:04 CV 1034 JBA.
Citation392 F.Supp.2d 297
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut
PartiesA SLICE OF PIE PRODUCTIONS, LLC, v. WAYANS BROTHERS ENTERTAINMENT, et al.

Charles Scott Schwefel, Jerrold G. Neeff, The Bostonian Law Group, Boston, MA, for A Slice of Pie Productions, LLC.

Louis P. Petrich, Leopold, Petrich & Smith, P.C., Los Angeles, CA, Glenn M. Cunningham, Jason M. Price, Shipman & Goodwin, Hartford, CT, Louis P. Petrich, Leopold, Petrich & Smith, P.C., Los Angeles, CA, Alan Neigher, Sheryle Levine, Byelas & Neigher, Westport, CT, for Wayans Brothers Entertainment, et al.

Ruling on Defendants' Motions to Dismiss, Motions to Transfer Venue, and Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to Amend its Complaint [Doc. 26], [Doc. 28], [Doc. 33], [Doc. 35], [Doc. 52], [Doc. 58]

ARTERTON, District Judge.

Plaintiff A Slice of Pie Productions, LLC ("Slice of Pie") brings claims under the United States Copyright Act and the Lanham Act against Defendants Revolution Studios, LLC ("Revolution") and Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. ("Sony"); claims of conversion, breach of implied contract, breach of fiduciary duty, idea misappropriation, and violation of the Lanham Act against Defendant Wayans Brothers Productions ("Wayans"); claims of breach of implied contract and breach of fiduciary duty against Defendant Gold/Miller Company ("Gold"); and claims under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act ("CUTPA") against all defendants.1

Defendant Gold has brought motions to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), (2), and (6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, lack of personal jurisdiction, and failure to state a claim on which relief may be granted. The other defendants have brought Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss all of the claims against them, except the copyright claims and the breach of implied contract claim against Wayans, either because they are preempted by the Copyright Act or for failure to state a claim.2 All defendants have also moved to transfer venue to the Central District of California pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) because venue is improper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 1400(a) or, alternatively, to transfer venue to the Central District of California pursuant to § 1404(a) because the convenience of the parties and interests of justice require it. For the reasons that follow, defendants' § 1406(a) and § 1404(a) motions to transfer are denied, defendant Gold's motion to dismiss is granted in part, and the motions of defendants Wayans, Revolution, and Sony to dismiss are granted.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 1997, Jon Coppola, Jason Coppola, and Mario Pittore, the principals of Slice of Pie, wrote a screenplay entitled Johnny Bronx, which they registered with the Writers Guild of America and with the United States Copyright Office. The screenplay involves an African American FBI agent who disguises himself as a white Italian American in order to infiltrate the mafia.

On or about October 22, 1999, following contact by plaintiff's agent, Ron Singer, from the Geddes Agency, Gold requested a copy of plaintiff's screenplay. Gold purportedly requested the screenplay on Wayans' behalf and plaintiff submitted the screenplay to Gold with the hope that Wayans would review the screenplay and decide to make a movie based upon it. Plaintiff alleges that Gold did indeed give the screenplay to Wayans and that at least one of the Wayans brothers reviewed it. Gold subsequently notified plaintiff that Wayans was not interested in the screenplay.

In July 2001, plaintiff submitted its screenplay to the Gersh Agency ("Gersh"), again with the hope that Wayans would review it, and as a result of contact from Gersh, Gold requested a copy from Gersh on behalf of Wayans and Gersh provided plaintiff's screenplay to both Gold and Wayans. Again, Gold notified plaintiff that Wayans was not interested in the screenplay.

Subsequently, defendants Wayans, Revolution, and Sony produced and distributed a film entitled White Chicks in which two African American male FBI agents disguise themselves as white women. White Chicks was released on June 23, 2004 and was shown in theaters nationwide, including theaters in Connecticut. As a result of the release of White Chicks, funding that plaintiff had secured to independently produce a film based on the Johnny Bronx screenplay was withdrawn.

II. DISCUSSION
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Gold has moved to dismiss the state law claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Paragraph 8 of the Proposed Fourth Amended Complaint alleges original subject matter jurisdiction under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1125, and the Copyright Act, Title 17 of the United States Code and 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a),3 diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(3), and supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

Section 1367 provides that where a district court has original jurisdiction over claims in an action, it shall "have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction, that they form part of the same case or controversy." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). As courts have interpreted this provision, district courts have supplemental jurisdiction over any claim that "derive[s] from a common nucleus of operative fact." See United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966); Jones v. Ford Motor Credit Co., 358 F.3d 205, 213-14 (2d Cir.2004). The Lanham Act and Copyright Act claims are based on Wayans' alleged copying of plaintiff's screenplay and the production and distribution of the movie based on that screenplay. The state law claims arise from Gold's role in procuring plaintiff's screenplay on behalf of Wayans. Although the facts giving rise to the federal claims are not identical to the facts giving rise to the state claims, they all relate to Slice of Pie's efforts to have Wayans review and use its screenplay. See Jones, 358 F.3d at 208 (holding Equal Credit Opportunity Act claims and debt collection counterclaims to be sufficiently linked because both arose "from the plaintiffs' decisions to purchase Ford cars"). Accordingly, the state claims in this case arise from the same operative nucleus of facts as the federal claims and it is appropriate to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.

B. Personal Jurisdiction

Defendant Gold has also moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2). "Where a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction in a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing through actual proof that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant." Divicino v. Polaris Indus., 129 F.Supp.2d 425, 428 (D.Conn.2001) (citing Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Robertson-Ceco Corp., 84 F.3d 560, 566-67 (2d Cir.1996)). Prior to jurisdictional discovery, a plaintiff "need only allege facts constituting a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction." PDK Labs, Inc. v. Friedlander, 103 F.3d 1105, 1108 (2d Cir.1997). All pleadings and affidavits are construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See id.

"Connecticut utilizes a familiar two-step analysis to determine if a court has personal jurisdiction. First, the court must determine if the state's long-arm statute reaches the foreign corporation. Second, if the statute does reach the corporation, then the court must decide whether that exercise of jurisdiction offends due process." Bensmiller v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 47 F.3d 79, 81 (2d Cir.1995). The constitutional test is whether the defendant had "certain minimum contacts with [the state] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) (internal quotation and citation omitted). A state can assert "general jurisdiction ... only where [a defendant's] contacts are continuous and systematic." Bank Brussels Lambert v. Fiddler Gonzalez & Rodriguez, 305 F.3d 120, 127 (2d Cir.2002) (internal quotation and citation omitted). The Court will consider "the totality of the circumstances rather than any mechanical criteria." Inset Sys., Inc. v. Instruction Set Inc., 937 F.Supp. 161, 165 (D.Conn. 1996).

Gold argues that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction under Conn. Gen.Stat. § 33-929 because Gold has never transacted or solicited business in Connecticut and because it does not have sufficient minimum contacts with the State of Connecticut. No jurisdictional discovery has yet taken place.

The Connecticut long arm statute provides that "[e]very foreign corporation shall be subject to suit in this state ... on any cause of action arising as follows: ... (2) out of any business solicited in this state by mail or otherwise if the corporation has repeatedly so solicited business[.]" Conn. Gen.Stat. § 33-929(f). The term "arising ... out of" has been interpreted broadly to mean that the cause of action at hand and the defendant's business contacts with the state do not have to "be causally connected." Thomason v. Chemical Bank, 234 Conn. 281, 292, 661 A.2d 595, 601 (Conn.1995). If the defendant repeatedly solicits business from Connecticut, "a plaintiff need only demonstrate that the defendant could reasonably have anticipated being hauled into court here by some person who had been solicited in Connecticut and that the plaintiff's cause of action is not materially different from an action that might have resulted directly from that solicitation." Id. at 296, 661 A.2d at 603 (emphasis in original).

In the instant case, Slice of Pie alleges that Gold is a large international agency with clients around the world, that disputes over screenplays occur frequently in the entertainment industry, and that Gold has transacted...

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