Addington v. Prince Telecom, LLC
ORDER granting 18 Motion to Dismiss. Counts Two and Three are dismissed without prejudice as insufficiently pled. Addington has 10 days from the date of this Order to amend Counts Two and Three or they will be dismissed with prejudice. Signed by Judge Donald W. Molloy on 5/31/2016. (DLE)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MONTANA
PRINCE TELECOM, LLC,
Plaintiff David Addington brought this action against Defendant Prince
Telecom, LLC, alleging wrongful discharge from employment, slander, and
blacklisting. Now before the Court is Prince Telecom’s motion to dismiss the
slander and blacklisting counts, Counts Two and Three, of the First Amended
Complaint for insufficient pleading. (Doc. 18.) For the reasons stated below,
Counts Two and Three are dismissed without prejudice.
Prince Telecom is a subcontractor that employs installation technicians who
install cable, telephone, and internet lines in customers’ homes. (Def.’s Prelim.
Pretrial Statement, Doc. 13 at 2.) Addington began working for Prince Telecom in
its Auburn, Washington system on March 20, 2013, as a Cable Install Technician.
(Id. at 3; Scheduling Order, Doc. 16 at 4.) In August 2013, Addington was
transferred to the Missoula, Montana system. (Doc. 13 at 3.) Prince Telecom later
terminated Addington, and his last date of employment was on December 3, 2013.
(Doc. 16 at 4.)
Addington filed this action on November 5, 2014, in the Montana Fourth
Judicial District Court, Missoula County, and Prince Telecom removed it to
federal court on October 2, 2015, based on diversity of citizenship. (Doc. 1.)
After the preliminary pretrial conference on January 22, 2016, Addington filed a
First Amended Complaint on February 16, 2016, that amended Counts Two and
Rule 8 requires “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the
pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . .
. claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). “While a complaint
attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual
allegations, a plaintiff’s obligation to provide the grounds of his entitle[ment] to
relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (internal citations and quotation
According to Prince Telecom, Counts Two and Three and the related claims
for punitive damages, as alleged in the First Amended Complaint, do not rise to
the required pleading standard. The Court agrees.
In Montana, “[s]lander is a false and unprivileged publication other than
libel that . . . by natural consequence causes actual damage.” Mont. Code Ann. §
27–1–803(5). Count Two of the First Amended Complaint alleges in its entirety
that: after Addington’s termination, Prince Telecom, through its agent William
Faulks, orally made false and unprivileged statements regarding Addington to
David Kupu and Ryan Reed; Faulks stated that Addington “could not work in
Montana as a Cable Install Technician”; the statement was false; and the statement
damaged Addington in an amount to be determined at trial. (Doc. 17 at 3.)
Although detailed factual allegations are not needed, Count Two amounts to “a
formulaic recitation of the elements” of the cause of action. It is vague and does
not give Prince Telecom fair notice of the grounds for the claim. Count Two
leaves unclear the specific time the statement was made, the context in which the
statement was made, the identity of David Kupu and Ryan Reed, how the
statement is false, how the statement damaged Addington, or how the statement
carries a defamatory meaning. Count Two is dismissed.
According to the Blacklisting and Protection of Discharged Employees Act,
If a company or corporation in this state authorizes or allows any of its
agents to blacklist or if a person does blacklist any discharged employee
or attempts by word or writing or any other means to prevent any
discharged employee . . . from obtaining employment with another
person, . . . the company, corporation, or person is liable in punitive
damages to the employee prevented from obtaining employment.
Mont. Code Ann. § 39–2–803. Count Three of the First Amended Complaint
alleges in its entirety that: after Addington’s termination, Prince Telecom, through
its agent Faulks, wrongfully attempted to prevent Addington from obtaining
employment by “telling prospective employers that [Addington] could not work in
Montana as a Cable Install Technician”; the statement was false; and as a result
Addington suffered damages in an amount to be determined at trial. (Doc. 17 at
4.) Once again, Count Three amounts to conclusory formulaic assertions. The
claim leaves unclear the timing of the statement, the context of the statement, how
and to whom the statement was disseminated, how the statement is false, how the
statement was used to prevent Addington from obtaining employment with
another person, and how the statement damaged Addington. Count Three is
The claims in Counts Two and Three for punitive damages state only that
Prince Telecom is liable because it “acted with actual malice towards” Addington
and that Prince Telecom is liable “[p]ursuant to Montana Code Annotated §
39–2–803.” (Doc. 17 at 2–3.) These allegations are conclusory, and the punitive
damages claims are dismissed along with that of the related slander and
Addington requests leave to amend as an alternative to dismissal. At this
stage of the case, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party’s
written consent or the court’s leave. The court should freely give leave when
justice so requires.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). Although Addington has had one
opportunity to amend his pleading, and the amendments did not cure the
deficiencies in the original Complaint, dismissal of Counts Two and Three is
inappropriate at this stage where the First Amended Complaint suffers only from a
lack of detail. Amendment would not be futile where the pleading of additional
facts could save the claims, and Prince Telecom does not oppose amendments
where it moves alternatively for a more definite statement. Addington may
therefore amend the First Amended Complaint.
Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that Prince Telecom’s motion (Doc. 18) is
GRANTED. Counts Two and Three are dismissed without prejudice as
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that Addington has 10 days from the date of
this Order to amend Counts Two and Three or they will be dismissed with
DATED this 31st day of May, 2016.
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?