St. Pierre v. Griffin
///ORDER granting 6 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. So Ordered by Judge Paul J. Barbadoro.(vln)
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 1 of 20
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
Amy St. Pierre
Case No. 20-cv-1173-PB
Opinion No. 2021 DNH 157
Stephen J. Griffin
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This case stems from a business dispute between Stephen
Griffin and John St. Pierre that is playing out in a separate
state court case.
Mr. St. Pierre’s wife, Amy, contends in the
current action that Griffin injured her during his battle with
her husband by improperly accessing documents on her Google
Drive, retaliating against her in the state court case, and
defaming her in a book he wrote.
Her complaint asserts claims
for (1) Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) violations; (2)
identity fraud; (3) invasion of privacy; (4) retaliation; and
Griffin, having removed Mrs. St. Pierre’s suit
to federal court, now moves to dismiss her complaint.
evaluating the parties’ arguments, I dismiss the complaint.
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 2 of 20
The parties’ acrimony dates to at least 2018, when Mr. St.
Pierre was terminated as CEO of Legacy Global Sports and
replaced by Griffin.
See Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶¶ 7-9.
followed were allegations of computer hacking, a lawsuit in
state court, and a tell-all book -- all of which inform various
elements of Mrs. St. Pierre’s complaint.
Mrs. St. Pierre’s Google Drive
During his time as CEO of Legacy, Mr. St. Pierre used a
corporate email address and an associated Google account for
both business and personal matters.
Id. ¶ 8.
Mrs. St. Pierre
maintained her own email address and Google account and used
them to share certain documents stored on her Google Drive with
her husband’s corporate Google account.
Id. ¶ 8.
Legacy retained control of Mr. St. Pierre’s corporate
Google account after he was fired.
Griffin subsequently used
that control to access Mrs. St. Pierre’s shared documents.
When Mrs. St. Pierre realized that Griffin had gained
access to the shared documents, she deleted them and later filed
The facts recounted are drawn from plaintiffs’ complaint,
public records, documents central to the disputed claims, and
“documents sufficiently referred to in the complaint.” See
Freeman v. Town of Hudson, 714 F.3d 29, 36 (1st Cir. 2013)
(quoting Watterson v. Page, 987 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1993)).
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 3 of 20
criminal complaints against Griffin with the FBI and a local
Id. ¶¶ 16-17.
Legacy sued Mr. St. Pierre after he was terminated for
improperly using corporate resources in an external competitive
Id. ¶ 9.
Mrs. St. Pierre is not a party to that
Even so, she alleges that Griffin retaliated
against her after she submitted her criminal complaints to the
police and FBI.
Id. ¶¶ 18-20.
She says that Griffin directed
his attorneys to “issue two subpoenas for Mrs. St. Pierre’s
personal email and private information.”
Id. ¶ 21.
court judge quashed both subpoenas, id. ¶ 22, and his decision
was reaffirmed after Legacy’s attorneys asked a second judge to
reconsider, id. ¶ 23, 28.
Griffin published a book, “Front Row Seat: Greed and
Corruption in a Youth Sports Company,” in November 2020.
Amazon.com categorized the book under “Biographies of
White Collar Crimes” and “White Collar Crimes True Accounts.”
Griffin referenced Mrs. St. Pierre a handful of times in
Describing her role in the disputed events
surrounding Mr. St. Pierre’s termination, Griffin wrote that he
“couldn’t fathom the nerve or ignorance of this woman.
husband was terminated by the company and was in the midst of a
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messy legal battle, yet she thought it was appropriate to access
the company’s Google Drive and delete files? Give me a break.”
He also sarcastically referred to Mrs. St. Pierre as “a
Griffin promoted the book on LinkedIn, a
social media platform focused on employment history and
opportunities, leading Mrs. St. Pierre to delete her profile on
Id. ¶ 31.
Griffin also reported in the book that Mr. St. Pierre “told
[him]” about “an ‘awful’ night dealing with his wife,” that “she
was yelling at him and he didn’t want the kids to hear it from
their bedrooms,” and that “things were not good between him and
Id. ¶ 33.
Griffin also wrote that Mrs. St. Pierre
was “retired” when she was, in fact, still working.
Id. ¶ 13.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
To overcome a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a
plaintiff must make factual allegations sufficient to “state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
Under this plausibility
standard, the plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows
the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged.”
requirement demands “more than a sheer possibility that [the]
defendant has acted unlawfully” or “facts that are merely
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 5 of 20
consistent with [the] defendant’s liability.”
complaint need not set forth detailed factual allegations, it
must provide “more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfullyharmed-me accusation.”
In evaluating the pleadings, I disregard any conclusory
statements in the complaint and credit as true all nonconclusory factual allegations and the reasonable inferences
drawn from those allegations to determine whether the claim is
Ocasio-Hernández v. Fortuño-Burset, 640 F.3d 1, 12
(1st Cir. 2011).
I “may also consider ‘facts subject to
judicial notice, implications from documents incorporated into
the complaint, and concessions in the complainant’s response to
the motion to dismiss.’”
Breiding v. Eversource Energy, 939
F.3d 47, 49 (1st Cir. 2019) (quoting Arturet-Vélez v. R.J.
Reynolds Tobacco Co., 429 F.3d 10, 13 n.2 (1st Cir. 2005)).
Mrs. St. Pierre’s claims fall neatly into three categories.
Her SCA, identity fraud, and invasion of privacy claims concern
Griffin’s activity on her Google Drive.
Her retaliation claim
focuses on Griffin’s litigation tactics in the related state
court case, and her defamation claim is based on statements
Griffin made about her in his book.
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 6 of 20
Google Drive Claims
Mrs. St. Pierre’s SCA, identity fraud, and invasion of
privacy claims are all directed at Griffin’s use of her
husband’s corporate Google account to access documents on Mrs.
St. Pierre’s Google Drive.
I take up Griffin’s challenge to
each of these claims in turn.
Stored Communications Act Claims
The SCA is a criminal statute that can also support a
private civil action for damages.
18 U.S.C. §§ 2701, 2707.
provides in pertinent part that a person commits a crime if he:
intentionally accesses without authorization a
facility through which an electronic
communication service is provided; or
intentionally exceeds an authorization to access
and thereby obtains, alters, or prevents
authorized access to a wire or electronic
communication while it is in electronic storage
in such system shall be punished as provided in
subsection (b) of this section.
18 U.S.C. § 2701(a).
Mrs. St. Pierre asserts that Griffin
violated this provision by using her husband’s corporate Google
account to access the documents that are the subject of her
I agree with Griffin that Mrs. St. Pierre’s SCA claim must
Mrs. St. Pierre concedes: (1) that she shared
access to the documents Griffin accessed with her husband’s
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 7 of 20
corporate Google account, Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 12; (2) she
continued to share access to the documents after her husband was
terminated, id. ¶ 21; and (3) the account was a corporate asset
that Legacy was entitled to control after her husband was fired,
id. ¶ 10.
Although she claims that Griffin committed identity
fraud by continuing to use her husband’s profile in connection
with his corporate Gmail address, she fails to claim that this
alleged deception played a role in her decision to continue to
share the documents with the account after Mr. St. Pierre was
Given these circumstances, Mrs. St. Pierre is in no
position to claim that Griffin accessed the shared documents
See § 2701(a)(1).
Although Mrs. St. Pierre does not press the point, she also
lacks a plausible claim that Griffin exceeded any authorization
she gave him to access the documents by copying them,
distributing them, or using them for another improper purpose.
When access to electronically stored documents has been granted,
the SCA is not violated even if the person who was granted
access later uses the documents for an unauthorized purpose.
See TLS Mgmt. & Mktg. Servs., LLC v. Rodriguez-Toledo, 260 F.
Supp. 3d 154, 163 (D.P.R. 2016); Sherman & Co. v. Salton Maxim
Housewares, Inc., 94 F. Supp. 2d 817, 821 (E.D. Mich. 2000);
see also Van Buren v. United States, 141 S. Ct. 1648, 1655
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 8 of 20
(2021) (construing similar language in the Computer Fraud and
Identity Fraud Claim
Mrs. St. Pierre asserts that Griffin is liable for identity
fraud because he used her husband’s corporate Google account to
access documents on her Google Drive.
She bases her claim on
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 638:26, which makes it a crime to “pose
as another person with the purpose to defraud . . . .”
As Griffin notes, § 638:26 is a criminal statute.
not provide a private civil right of action, and St. Pierre has
failed to point to any relevant legislative history or
controlling case law that allows a plaintiff to base a civil
claim on this provision.
must be dismissed.
Accordingly, I agree that the claim
See Menard v. Tyndall, 2018 WL 5839394, at
*1 (N.H. Sup. Ct. Oct. 26, 2018); Snierson v. Scruton, 145 N.H.
73, 79 (2000); Marquay v. Eno, 139 N.H. 708, 715-16 (1995).
Invasion of Privacy Claims
Mrs. St. Pierre accuses Griffin of invading her privacy by
accessing certain files on her Google Drive that she had shared
with her husband’s corporate Google account.
generally claims that she stored “pictures and information about
. . . her family, financials, health records, and other personal
matters” on her Google Drive, Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 12, she
does not allege that she shared any sensitive personal files
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 9 of 20
with her husband’s corporate account.
Instead, the only two
files she specifically states were shared and later accessed by
Griffin were “Seacoast Sports Village.docx” and “Seacoast Sports
PP.pptx,” neither of which on its face appears to contain
sensitive personal information.
Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 12; Pl’s
Reply, Doc. No. 11 ¶ 4. 2
Based on these alleged facts, Mrs. St. Pierre claims that
Griffin “invaded [her] privacy when he accessed her personal
account and intentionally intruded upon her private affairs
contained in her account.”
Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 50.
her complaint generously, I construe Mrs. St. Pierre’s complaint
to assert a claim for invasion of privacy by “intrusion upon
physical and mental solitude or seclusion.”
See, e.g., Karch v.
BayBank FSB, 147 N.H. 525, 534 (2002) (describing intrusion upon
seclusion claim). 3
Mrs. St. Pierre also attached a screen shot of her husband’s
corporate Google Drive to her complaint. Compl., Doc. No. 1-1
Ex. 4. Mrs. St. Pierre says that she shared these files with
her husband, but she does not allege that Griffin ever accessed
the files, nor does she assert that any of those files contained
sensitive personal information. See id. ¶ 26. Instead, she
confirms that the files related to the administration of an ice
hockey rink that the St. Pierres were involved with. Id.
I do not understand Mrs. St. Pierre to allege an invasion of
privacy by public disclosure of private facts claim, see Karch,
147 N.H. at 535 (outlining elements of the tort), as she does
not claim that either of the documents that Griffin shared was
“intimate” as contemplated by the tort, see id.; see also
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 652D cmt. b (1977) (explaining
that relevant disclosures involve “intimate details . . . spread
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A person who intentionally “intru[des], upon a plaintiff’s
physical and mental solitude or seclusion” is liable for
intrusion upon seclusion when the intrusion is “offensive.”
Karch, 147 N.H. at 534; see also Restatement (Second) of Torts
An intrusion will be insufficiently offensive to
support an intrusion upon seclusion claim unless it exceeds “the
limits of decency” such that the defendant “should have realized
that” it would upset “persons of ordinary sensibilities.”
Karch, 147 N.H. at 534-35 (quoting Fischer v. Hooper, 143 N.H.
585, 590 (1999)). 4
The privacy interest intruded upon must be
“something secret, secluded or private pertaining to the
Fischer, 143 N.H. at 590 (quoting Hamberger v.
Eastman, 106 N.H. 107, 110 (1964)).
When considering whether an item is “secret, secluded, or
private,” the New Hampshire Supreme Court “determine[s] whether
before the public gaze in a manner highly offensive to the
ordinary reasonable man”). And her complaint does not allege
either of the remaining invasion of privacy torts: placing her
in a false light in the public eye or appropriation of her name
or likeness. See Mansfield v. Arsenault, No. 2020-0100, 2021 WL
72370, at *1–2 (N.H. Jan. 8, 2021) (outlining elements of the
torts); Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 50.
In Karch, the New Hampshire Supreme Court explained that
Fischer was “consistent with the Restatement (Second) of Torts
§ 652B” with respect to how “offensive” a defendant’s intrusion
must be before it is actionable. 147 N.H. at 535. Thus, even
though the Restatement requires “highly offensive” conduct, I
construe the New Hampshire Supreme Court’s requirement of
“offensive” conduct to be materially the same.
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 11 of 20
a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy in [it].”
Remsburg v. Docusearch, Inc., 149 N.H. 148, 156 (2003) (citing
Fischer, 143 N.H. at 589-90).
Whether there is a reasonable expectation of privacy can be
a question for a factfinder, but it “becomes a question of law
if reasonable persons can draw only one conclusion from the
Remsburg, 149 N.H. at 156.
Factors that can be
considered include “the degree of intrusion, the context,
conduct and circumstances surrounding the intrusion as well as
the intruder’s motives and objectives, the setting into which he
intrudes, and the expectations of those whose privacy is
Id. (quotation omitted).
Although Griffin was never Mrs. St. Pierre’s employer,
their conflict centers on his access to documents she created
and shared in a workplace setting.
Several courts have
considered the relevant privacy interests at stake when
employers access personal emails or files stored on companyowned devices or accounts.
Those courts have concluded that
employees’ privacy rights are often diminished but are not
necessarily expunged in the workplace.
For example, in Clark v. Teamsters Local Union 651, an
employer accessed a former employee’s Dropbox 5 account “to search
Dropbox is analogous to Google Drive; both are file storage and
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 12 of 20
for work-related files.”
349 F. Supp. 3d 605, 621 (E.D. Ky.
The employee had “stored a mixture of work-related and
personal documents” in the account and “tied [it] to her work email.”
Id. at 622.
The employer accessed the Dropbox account
after using the “lost password” option, which sent a new
password to the work email to which the employer had access.
Id. at 621.
The court first noted that in some settings,
“district courts have held that an employee does not have a
reasonable expectation of privacy in e-mails sent or received
using a work e-mail address.”
Id. at 622 (collecting cases).
And if an employee does not have a reasonable expectation of
privacy in her work-related emails, then “it logically follows
that [she] do[es] not have a reasonable expectation of privacy
in a Dropbox account that is tied to [her] work e-mail.”
Further, the court found that the intrusion was not offensive
because the employer “had a legitimate business purpose to
recover documents related to [its] operations.”
A district court in New Jersey reached a similar conclusion
in Christie v. Nat’l Inst. for Newman Stud., No. CV 16-6572
(FLW), 2019 WL 1916204 (D.N.J. Apr. 30, 2019).
The employer in
Christie reviewed some of the employee’s personal emails that
were being automatically downloaded to a company desktop email
application containing his work emails.
Id. at *11.
employer never logged into the employee’s personal email
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 13 of 20
account; she merely viewed emails that were passively downloaded
to his work desktop.
Id. at *8.
The court saw this intrusion
as “limited” and considered several factors to determine whether
there was a reasonable expectation of privacy in the relevant
Id. at *12.
It noted that it was the employee who
decided to use an email program that mixed his personal and
business email addresses.
It also identified that the
employer owned the computer, “was granted the authorization to
access the [employee’s work] desktop,” only reviewed a few
emails, and was only searching for emails it had a legitimate
business purpose to review.
Finding that there was no
reasonable expectation of privacy in personal emails in these
circumstances, the court held that any invasion was not
Id. at *13.
Even when using an employer-provided account, employees can
retain some expectation of privacy in their files or messages,
such as where the employer condones personal use -- or the files
are marked as personal or confidential.
See Mintz v. Mark
Bartelstein & Assocs., 885 F. Supp. 2d 987, 990, 997 (C.D. Cal.
2012) (finding that an employee retained a “limited expectation
of privacy” in a phone’s text messages, even when the employer
“owned the account and paid all the bills” because the employer
“was aware of and permitted [him] to make personal calls”);
Convertino v. United States DOJ, 674 F. Supp. 2d 97, 108 (D.D.C.
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 14 of 20
2009) (holding that an employee who emails his lawyer through an
employer-provided account can “reasonably expect his e-mails
. . . to remain confidential”).
Mrs. St. Pierre alleges that Griffin’s actions were
sufficiently offensive because he “target[ed] [her], posing as
Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 51.
But nowhere does she
say that Griffin ever induced her into believing that he was, in
fact, Mr. St. Pierre, or that she had communicated with Mr. St.
Pierre’s Legacy account after Griffin took over.
claims that Griffin “accessed” her account “for several months.”
Id. ¶ 25.
The complaint only pleads with sufficient specificity
that Griffin accessed the two files Mrs. St. Pierre shared with
her husband’s account.
See Christie, 2019 WL 1916204 *12 n.15
(explaining that plaintiffs must identify the “specific”
documents the defendant supposedly read).
So her claim rests on
whether she had a reasonable expectation of privacy in those
files and whether Griffin went “beyond the limits of decency” in
See Remsburg, 149 N.H. at 156.
Even construing the complaint generously, I determine that
Mrs. St. Pierre did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy
in the documents she alleges were accessed and shared by
She concedes that she shared the documents with a
corporate Google account and continued to share them after her
husband transferred that account to Griffin.
She also made no
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 15 of 20
attempts to protect or encrypt the documents should her husband
lose access to his account, nor did she give the files names
that would flag that they were not business-related.
for his part, having terminated Mr. St. Pierre for allegedly
using Legacy resources in a competing venture, had a business
purpose for examining Mr. St. Pierre’s files and is not alleged
to have induced Mrs. St. Pierre into believing he was her
Therefore, the documents were not “secret, secluded,
or private” such that Mrs. St. Pierre had a reasonable
expectation of privacy in them.
See Remsburg, 149 N.H. at 156.
Nor can any intrusion by Griffin in accessing the documents be
seen as “beyond the limits of decency” to people of “ordinary
Accordingly, Mrs. St. Pierre’s
invasion of privacy claim must be dismissed.
Litigation Activity Claims
Griffin and Mr. St. Pierre are presently locked in an
acrimonious state court litigation.
While not a party to that
case, Mrs. St. Pierre received two subpoenas from Griffin’s
One was for all her emails for the prior four years,
and the other for more information related to her computer and
Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 21.
Mrs. St. Pierre
successfully had the subpoenas quashed in state court.
The court described the subpoenas as “defective” and
“the classic explanation of a fishing expedition.”
Id. ¶ 28.
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Mrs. St. Pierre spends considerable time in the complaint
explaining how Legacy’s attempts to subpoena her were
“intentionally deceitful,” id. ¶ 23, and “fraudulent,” id.
¶¶ 24, 26.
Despite her success in quashing the subpoenas, Mrs.
St. Pierre now brings a claim that Griffin retaliated against
her in the state court case after she reported him to law
Id. ¶¶ 53-55.
Mrs. St. Pierre’s complaint fails for two reasons.
she has failed to tie her allegations to a specific cause of
New Hampshire does not recognize a general tort for
retaliation outside the workplace.
Cf. U.S. Equal Emp.
Opportunity Comm’n v. Fred Fuller Oil Co., 168 N.H. 606, 609
Next, to the extent that her complaint relies on Griffin’s
aggressive litigation tactics, it cannot survive under New
Hampshire law, which immunizes “[s]tatements made in the course
of judicial proceedings” from civil suit “if the statements are
pertinent or relevant to the proceedings.”
Lath v. City of
Manchester, NH, 2017 DNH 057, 2018 WL 1718291, at *2 (D.N.H.
Apr. 9, 2018) (quoting Provencher v. Buzzell-Plourde Assocs.,
142 N.H. 848, 853 (1998)).
The appropriate venue for Mrs. St.
Pierre to pursue redress for expenses related to the state court
litigation is before the state court.
See Emerson v. Town of
Stratford, 139 N.H. 629, 632 (1995) (explaining that “the trial
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court is in the best position to decide whether a party’s claim
constitutes bad faith or is patently unreasonable” (quotation
Mrs. St. Pierre bases her defamation claim on statements
Griffin made about her in his book. 6
I focus here on certain
statements Griffin made about the state of her marriage, as the
other statements are either not defamatory on their face or are
mere nonactionable statements of opinion. 7
Griffin’s most concerning false statements are his
allegedly false claims that Mr. St. Pierre had told Griffin that
“he had an ‘awful’ night dealing with his wife” where “she was
yelling at him and he didn’t want the kids to hear it from their
Mrs. St. Pierre also cites several allegedly defamatory
statements Griffin made about her husband. She cannot ground
her defamation claim on these statements, however, because they
are not “‘of and concerning’ [her], a requirement for showing
defamation.” Flotech, Inc. v. E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co.,
814 F.2d 775, 778 n.3 (1st Cir. 1987) (quoting Rosenblatt v.
Baer, 383 U.S. 75, 81-82 (1966)).
For example, Griffin’s statement that Mrs. St. Pierre had “just
retired” is not defamatory on its face and his statements that
she was a “classy lady” (intended sarcastically) and “ignorant”
are quintessential examples of non-defamatory “opinion”
statements. See Restatement (Second) of Torts § 559 cmt. e.
(describing defamation standard); Automated Transactions, LLC v.
Am. Bankers Ass’n, 172 N.H. 528, 532-33 (2019) (opinion
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 18 of 20
bedrooms,” and that “things are not good between him and his
Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 33. 8
New Hampshire law dictates that a statement is defamatory
if it “hold[s] the plaintiff up to contempt, hatred, scorn or
ridicule, or tend[s] to impair the plaintiff’s standing in the
Boyle v. Dwyer, 172 N.H. 548, 554 (2019).
I do not doubt that false statements about marital discord can
in some circumstances support a defamation claim, the statements
Mrs. St. Pierre cites are simply not sufficiently damaging to
Another statement that could have been understood as a nonopinion assertion is that Mrs. St. Pierre “thought it was
appropriate to access the company’s Google Drive and delete
files.” Compl., Doc. No. 1-1 ¶ 30. While this statement might,
at first blush, be construed as a defamatory accusation of
criminal behavior, the context surrounding it (which is
incorporated into the complaint by reference) makes clear that
Mrs. St. Pierre “had been provided access to certain folders on
the company’s Google Drive.” Stephen Griffin, Front Row Seat:
Greed and Corruption in a Youth Sports Company (2020) (e-book).
To echo my earlier summary about when the SCA applies, I do not
understand this statement, seen in context, as an accusation of
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 19 of 20
support a defamation claim. 9
Accordingly, her defamation claim
also fails to state a viable claim for relief. 10
Three-quarters of a century ago, the D.C. Circuit wrote in
dicta that “[a] mere assertion of marital discord is libelous.”
Thackrey v. Patterson, 157 F.2d 614, 615 (D.C. Cir. 1946). This
language was later cited a handful of times but has not been
relied on in over four decades. See Phillips v. Evening Star
Newspaper Co., 424 A.2d 78, 83 (D.C. 1980). Defamation is
always contextual, and when “determining the defamatory
character of language, the meaning of which is clear . . . the
current standards of moral and social conduct” in the relevant
community is an “important factor.” Restatement (Second) of
Torts § 614 cmt. d. Given the ever-evolving nature of social
change, what was defamatory “to one person at a given time and
place” may no longer “be derogatory of another person at a
different time or in a different place.” Id. I am confident
that the public scorn associated with common “marital discord”
is significantly less than it was seventy-five years ago.
In dismissing Mrs. St. Pierre’s defamation claim, I attach no
weight to Griffin’s argument that his statements cannot possibly
be defamatory because he did not use Mrs. St. Pierre’s name and
included a disclaimer in the book that it is a work of fiction.
Such arguments are bound to fail whenever, as is the case here,
the details included in the book “would identify [the plaintiff]
unmistakably to anyone who has known [her] well for a long time
(members of [her] famil[y] for example) . . . and no more is
required for liability . . . in defamation law . . . .” Haynes
v. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 8 F.3d 1222, 1223 (7th Cir. 1993)
(citing Baer, 383 U.S. at 79-87).
Case 1:20-cv-01173-PB Document 20 Filed 09/30/21 Page 20 of 20
Defendants’ motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 6) is granted.
/s/ Paul J. Barbadoro
Paul J. Barbadoro
United States District Judge
September 30, 2021
Amy St. Pierre
Phillip Rakhunov, Esq.
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