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CENTENNIAL SCH. DIST. v. INDEPENDENCE BLUE CROSS

July 8, 1994

CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT
v.
INDEPENDENCE BLUE CROSS; MEDICAL SERVICE ASSOCIATION OF PENNSYLVANIA, t/a PENNSYLVANIA BLUE SHIELD; KEYSTONE HEALTH PLANS, INC.; and KEYSTONE HEALTH PLAN EAST, INC., t/a KEYSTONE HEALTH PLAN v. CENTENNIAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, BRADLEY S. KIRSCH, ROBERT J. FLUEHR, and EXECUCOMP INSURANCE SERVICES, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN R. PADOVA

 Padova, J.

 Plaintiff-Counterclaim Defendant Centennial School District ("Centennial") and Counterclaim Defendant Bradley S. Kirsch (collectively, the "Counterclaim Defendants") have moved to dismiss the Amended Counterclaim filed by Defendants-Counterclaim Plaintiffs ("Counterclaim Plaintiffs") for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367 and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 13(a). In the alternative, they move to dismiss several of the counts for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or on the basis of immunity. In addition, Counterclaim Defendants have moved to strike portions of the Amended Counterclaim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f), and for sanctions pursuant to Rule 11. For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

 Background

 Centennial filed suit alleging antitrust and state law claims against Defendants. Defendants-Counterclaim Plaintiffs have filed an Amended Counterclaim against Centennial, Kirsch, and non-moving Counterclaim Defendants Robert J. Fluehr and Execucomp Insurance Services, Inc., alleging defamation, disparagement, tortious interference with contractual and business relationships, tortious interference with prospective contractual and business relationships, conspiracy to tortiously interfere with prospective contractual and business relationships, and breach of contract.

 I. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 13(a), "[a] pleading shall state as a counterclaim any claim which at the time of serving the pleading the pleader has against any opposing party, if it arises out of the transaction or occurrence that is the subject matter of the opposing party's claim and does not require for its adjudication the presence of third parties of whom the court cannot acquire jurisdiction." Fed. R. Civ. P. 13(a). Courts have liberally construed what constitutes a "transaction or occurrence." See, e.g., Linker v. Custom-Bilt Machinery Inc., 594 F. Supp. 894, 900 (E.D. Pa. 1984) (holding that "defendants' counterclaim for defamation is based upon the identical securities transactions and conduct by the defendants allegedly supporting plaintiff's claims of fraud, misrepresentation, misconduct and breach of duty"). Similarly, the claims here relate to the contract between the parties and to comments made by defendants relating to the termination of that contractual relationship. The claims for breach of contract and conspiracy relate directly to the conduct surrounding the contract between the parties, the reasons for the termination of the contractual relationship, and the culpability of the parties in the relationship. The other claims flow directly from the alleged conduct of the parties. "Transaction or occurrence" should be interpreted broadly; it is unnecessary that the facts be from the same time or that exactly the same facts will resolve the issues in the complaint and the counterclaim. See Charles A. Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Mary Kay Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil § 1410 (2d ed. 1990). Therefore, this Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), because the claims share "a common nucleus of operative fact." United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218, 86 S. Ct. 1130 (1966). See also Sinclair v. Soniform, Inc., 935 F.2d 599, 603 (3d Cir. 1991); Nanavati v. Burdette Tomlin Mem. Hosp., 857 F.2d 96, 105 (3d Cir. 1988) (holding that supplementary jurisdiction existed because defendant's "slander claim is ancillary to [plaintiff's antitrust claim. . . . [Plaintiff's] discussions with the press as well as the substance of his allegations against [defendant] would constitute relevant facts for both sides"), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1078, 103 L. Ed. 2d 834, 109 S. Ct. 1528 (1989); Linker, 594 F. Supp. at 899. Following this reasoning, I find that the counterclaim arises from the same transaction or occurrence to come within the purview of Rule 13(a) and confer jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

 II. Failure to State a Claim

 Counterclaim Defendants also assert, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), that the individual counts of the amended counterclaim fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. *fn1" In determining a motion to dismiss, all assertions in the pleading are assumed to be true; all reasonable inferences are drawn from the pleading in favor of the plaintiff; and the counterclaim only may be dismissed if the plaintiff has alleged no set of facts under which they could state a claim. See, e.g., Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1410 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 501 U.S. 1222, 115 L. Ed. 2d 1007, 111 S. Ct. 2839 (1991). I will examine each of the challenged counts in turn.

 A. Defamation (Count I)

 Under Pennsylvania law, "counts alleging defamation should not be dismissed . . . unless it is clear that the communication is incapable of defamatory meaning." Petula v. Mellody, 138 Pa. Commw. 411, 588 A.2d 103, 108 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1991). The plaintiff must allege:

 
(1) the defamatory character of the communication;
 
(2) its publication by the defendant;
 
(3) its application to the plaintiff;
 
(4) the understanding by the recipient of its defamatory meaning;
 
(5) the understanding by the recipient of it as intended to be applied to the plaintiff;
 
(6) special harm resulting to the plaintiff from its ...

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