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Teri Woods Publishing, L.L.C., et al v. Desean Williams

April 12, 2013

TERI WOODS PUBLISHING, L.L.C., ET AL.,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DESEAN WILLIAMS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before this Court is Defendant, Gasch Printing, L.L.C.'s ("Gasch"), Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and Plaintiffs, Teri Woods ("Plaintiff Woods") and Teri Woods Publishing, L.L.C.'s ("Plaintiff Publishing") (collectively "Plaintiffs"), Response in Opposition. For the reasons set forth below, this Motion is granted as to Counts III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI and XIV, and denied as to Counts I, II, XII and XIII.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Teri Woods Publishing, LLC, is a domestic, limited liability company engaged as a "mom-and-pop sort of book publishing company" in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Compl. at 2.) Plaintiff, Teri Woods, is an adult individual and a "well known, New York Times best selling author" residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Id.) Plaintiffs aver that they are the rightful and lawful copyright holders of certain literary works, including, but not limited to, the following books: "Dutch I"; "Dutch II" a/k/a "Dutch II: Angel's Revenge"; "Dutch III: International Gangster"; "Deadly Reigns I"; "Deadly Reigns II"; and "Deadly Reigns III."*fn1 (Id.)

Defendant, Gasch Printing L.L.C., is a book manufacturing and publishing company located in Odenton, Maryland. (Id. at 1.) Plaintiffs allege that Gasch was hired by another Defendant to illegally manufacture bootleg copies of Plaintiffs' copyrighted works or derivative works.*fn2 (Id. at 3.) Plaintiffs attest that they became aware of Gasch's illegal activities sometime in 2011 after a phone conversation with Jeremy Hess, who is alleged to be "a principal and/or representative" of Gasch. (Id. at 4-5.)

On August 23, 2012, Plaintiffs filed suit against seven Defendants. (Id.) Plaintiffs' Complaint set forth fourteen counts including: Copyright Infringement; Civil Conspiracy; Unjust Enrichment; Accounting; Constructive Trust; Permanent Injunction; Violation of N.J. Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations ("RICO") statute; False Light Invasion of Privacy; and New Jersey State Civil Rights Violations. (Id. at 6-18.) On March 1, 2013, Gasch filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim for Which Relief May be Granted. See Doc. 33. In a Response filed on March 11, 2013, Plaintiffs conceded that the civil conspiracy and unjust enrichment claims were improper and should be dismissed.*fn3 See Doc. 34. On April 4, 2013, Gasch filed a "Reply In Further Support of Motion to Dismiss Complaint." See Doc. No. 39.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a complaint. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has failed to set forth a claim from which relief may be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); see also Lucas v. City of Philadelphia, No. 11-4376, 2012 WL 1555430, at *2 (E.D. Pa. May 2, 2012) (citing Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005)). In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the court must view any reasonable inferences from the factual allegations in a light most favorable to the plaintiff. Buck v. Hamilton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2002).

The Supreme Court set forth in Twombly, and further defined in Iqbal, a two-part test to determine whether to grant or deny a motion to dismiss. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009); Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ("Third Circuit") has noted that these cases signify the progression from liberal pleading requirements to more "exacting scrutiny" of the complaint. Wilson v. City of Philadelphia, 415 Fed. Appx. 434, 436 (3d Cir. 2011).

Initially, the court must ascertain whether the complaint is supported by well-pleaded factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Conclusions of law can serve as the foundation of a complaint, but to survive dismissal they must be supported by factual allegations. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. These factual allegations must be explicated sufficiently to provide a defendant the type of notice that is contemplated by Rule 8. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2) (requiring a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Where there are well-pleaded facts, courts must assume their truthfulness. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

Upon a finding of a well-pleaded complaint, the court must then determine whether these allegations "plausibly" give rise to an entitlement to relief. Id. at 679. This is a "context specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. Plausibility compels the pleadings to contain enough factual content to allow a court to make "a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 at 570). This is not a probability requirement; rather plausibility necessitates "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). In other words, a complaint must not only allege entitlement to relief, but must demonstrate such entitlement with sufficient facts to nudge the claim "across the line from conceivable to plausible." Id. at 683; see also Holmes v. Gates, 403 Fed. App'x 670, 673 (3d Cir. 2010).

III. DISCUSSION

This Court possesses subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' copyright infringement claims pursuant to the Copyright Act of 1976. 17 U.S.C. §§ 101-810. We hold pendent jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' remaining state court claims. See United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725 (1966) (finding that pendent jurisdiction exists when there is a claim under the Constitution, the laws or treaties of the United States, and the relationship between that claim and a state claim permits the conclusion that the entire action comprises but one constitutional case).

In the Motion to Dismiss, Gasch raises various arguments advocating for the dismissal of all of Plaintiffs' claims. Though they filed a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Gasch's Motion, Plaintiffs focused solely on the copyright infringement claims and neglected to refute Gasch's arguments on these points in any way or form. Under the Local Rules, Plaintiffs failure to timely answer Gasch's Motion may be treated as uncontested. See U.S. Dist. Ct., E.D. Pa., Local Rule 7; Patterson v. City of Philadelphia, No. 08-2140, 2009 WL 1259968, at *7 (E.D. Pa. May 1, 2009) (Local Rule 7.1 permits a court to treat failure to respond as uncontested). However, courts may depart from the strictures of the local rules in appropriate cases. See U.S. v. Eleven Vehicles, Their Equipment and Accessories, 200 F.3d 203, 215 (3d Cir. 2000). We find this to be the most fastidious approach and proceed to examine all of Plaintiffs' ...


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