Fields v. Sprint Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM ORDER. Finding no error in the R&R, the Court: 1) ADOPTS the findings and recommendations set forth in the R&R, (ECF No. 14 ); 2) OVERRULES Defendants' objection asking the Court to dismiss Count III of the Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 15 ); 3) GRANTS IN PART Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 9 ); 4) DISMISSES Count II of the Amended Complaint; and, 5) ORDERS Defendants to file an answer to Fields's Amended Complaint in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of Civil Procedure for the Eastern District of Virginia. See for complete details. It is so ORDERED. Signed by District Judge M. Hannah Lauck on 09/12/2017. (nbrow)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA
NEAL K. FIELDS,
Civil Action No. 3:16cv905
SPRINT CORPORATION, et al.,
Plaintiff Neal K. Fields brings this action against Defendants Sprint Corporation
("Sprint"), and its employee Mariano Almonte (collectively, the "Defendants") alleging that
Defendants caused him damages when they falsely reported to the police that Fields had stolen a
cell phone case. Defendants moved to dismiss two counts ofFields's Amended Complaint (the
"Motion to Dismiss"). (ECF No. 9.)
The Court referred the Motion to Dismiss to the Honorable David J. Novak, United States
Magistrate Judge, pursuant to the provisions of28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l)(B) and (C) and Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b). Judge Novak filed a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") on
May 11, 2017. (ECF No. 14.) Judge Novak recommended that:
1) "Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 9) be granted with respect to Count 11";
2) The Defendants' Motion should be "denied with respect to Count III."
(R&R 14, ECF No. 14.)
By copy of the R&R, each party was advised of the right to file written objections to the
findings and recommendations made by Judge Novak within fourteen days after being served
with a copy of the R&R. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l); (R&R 15). On May 25, 2017, Defendants filed
an "Objection" to the R&R. (ECF No. 15.) Defendants "object[ed] to the section of the R&R
addressing Count III of Fields'[s] Amended Complaint for slander and slander per se," and
specifically contested Judge Novak's finding "that Almonte's alleged statement to the police
regarding Fields'[s] theft of the phone case is not protected by absolute privilege, and therefore
that Fields has sufficiently stated a claim in Count III to survive the motion to dismiss." (Obj. 12.) Defendants further urged the Court to "overrule the Magistrate Judge's recommendation and
dismiss Count III with prejudice because Almonte's alleged statement was absolutely
privileged." (Id. at 1.)
Fields has filed no objections to the R&R, and the time to do so has expired.
The Court has conducted a de novo review of the R&R and Defendants' objections. The
Court is not persuaded by Defendants' argument attempting to distinguish Lindeman v. Lesnick,
604 S.E.2d 55 (Va. 2004) from the case at hand, or their arguments that Lindeman was
incorrectly applied in the R&R. Moreover, Mansfield v. Bernabei, 727 S.E.2d 69 (Va. 2012),
cited by Defendants for the first time in their objections, (Obj. 4-5), supports the findings and
recommendations in the R&R. Mansfield held that for absolute privilege to attach to
"communications preliminary to proposed judicial proceedings," such as Almonte's statements
to the police officer, the statements must, inter a/ia, be "related to a proceeding contemplated in
goodfaith and under serious consideration." Mansfield, 727 S.E.2d at 125. Fields's Amended
Complaint, viewed in the light most favorable to Fields, pleads facts sufficient to support an
inference that Almonte's statements were made to protect his job and not to catch a potential
shoplifter. (See Am. Compl. ~~ 25, 27; R&R 14.)
Finding no error in the R&R, the Court:
1) ADOPTS the findings and recommendations set forth m the R&R,
(ECF No. 14);
2) OVERRULES Defendants' o bjection asking the Court to di smiss Count
III of the Amended Complaint, (ECF No. 15);
3) GRANTS IN PART Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, (ECF No. 9);
4) DISMISSES Count II of the Amended Complaint; and,
5) ORDERS Defendants to file an answer to F ields's Amended Comp laint in
accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules
of C ivil Procedure for the Eastern District of Virgin ia.
Let the Clerk send a copy of this Order to all counsel of record.
It is so ORDERED.
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