United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
action arises out of Plaintiff Peter Rose's allegations
that, in part, Defendant John Dowd defamed Plaintiff when
Defendant made certain on-air statements during a radio
broadcast. Presently before the Court are Defendant John
Dowd's Motion to Dismiss Complaint (Doc. 12), Plaintiff
Peter Rose's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant
John Dowd's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 16), and the Reply
Brief in Support of Defendant John Dowd's Motion to
Dismiss Complaint (Doc. 18). Upon careful consideration of
the Parties' submissions and exhibits, and for the
reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion is GRANTED IN
PART AND DENIED IN PART.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
the Court writes primarily for the parties, it sets forth
only those facts that are relevant to its conclusion.
Plaintiff Peter Rose is a former Major League Baseball
("MLB") player and manager. (Compl. ¶ 5.) In
1984, Rose became a player-manager for the Cincinnati Reds
(the "Reds"). (Compl. ¶ 10.) Rose retired as a
player in 1986 but remained a manager until August 1989.
(Compl. ¶ 11.)
1989, MLB began investigating Rose to determine whether he
engaged in conduct not in the best interests of baseball.
(Compl. ¶ 13.) In February 1989, the Office of the
Commissioner of MLB engaged John Dowd, a practicing attorney,
to act as special counsel to confidentially investigate Rose.
(Compl. ¶¶ 14-15.) Dowd interviewed a number of
people, including Michael Bertolini. (Compl. ¶¶
1989, Dowd issued the "Dowd Report, " in which he
concluded that Rose had bet on the Reds from 1985 to 1987 in
violation of Major League Rule 21. (Compl. ¶ 18.) In
August 1989, the investigation ended in a confidential
agreement between Rose and the Office of the Commissioner of
MLB, and Rose accepted a disciplinary sanction. (Compl.
¶ 19.) As part of this sanction, Rose was placed on the
ineligible list and effectively banned from working or
participating in MLB events. (Compl. ¶ 19.)
23, 2015, sports radio show host Jim Rome interviewed Dowd.
CBS Sports Radio and its affiliate radio stations broadcast
the interview. (Compl. ¶ 41.) During the interview Dowd
It's just this terrible arrogance that affects this guy
and his people and you know, shame on him; he's now been
caught bare ass in front of this commissioner, and I love it.
And now, he's standing out there naked .... He had
Bertolini running young women down in Florida for his
satisfaction, so you know he's just not worthy of
consideration or to be a part of the game; this is not who we
want in the game of baseball.
(Compl. ¶ 42.) Rose claims Dowd's comment about
Bertolini "running young women" was intended to
harm Rose. (Compl. ¶ 43.)
13, 2015, Bill Werndl, a radio sports broadcaster with the AM
radio station WCHE 1520 in West Chester, Pennsylvania,
interviewed Dowd by telephone. (Compl. ¶¶ 45- 47.)
The interview was broadcast to WCHE 1520's listening
audience. (Compl. ¶ 47.) During the interview, Dowd was
asked, "do you find [Rose] a likeable person? Not a
likeable person? Do you see the window inside his soul and
forget about all this [betting]?" (Compl. ¶ 48.)
No. I've been asked that question - whether he had any
moral bearings at all. And the answer is no. You know, there
is a lot of other activity. He constantly violated the
concept of laws. Michael Bertolini, you know, told us that he
not only ran bets but he ran young girls for him down at
spring training, ages 12 to 14. Isn't that lovely. So
that's statutory rape every time you do that. So,
he's not . . . he's just not, you know, the kind of
person that I find very attractive. He's a street guy.
(Compl. ¶ 48.)
station broadcast the interview and posted it on the
station's website. (Compl. ¶ 49.) Rose argues that
Dowd's statements that Bertolini "ran young
girls" for Rose were false and malicious accusations of
statutory rape that were designed to injure him. (Compl.
¶¶ 50-51.) Dowd's statements were republished
and reported. (Compl. ¶¶ 51, 56.)
executive John McHale, Jr. advised Rose's representatives
that MLB had no information to support Dowd's accusation
that Bertolini "ran young girls" for Rose. (Compl.
¶ 53.) In August 2015, Bertolini's attorney released
a public statement that:
[Bertolini] categorically denies the allegation. He never did
any such thing, nor did Pete Rose, nor did Mike say anything
to Dowd about the subject. The story is libelous to him and
to Rose and should be retracted immediately.
(Compl. ¶ 55.)
April 2014, Rose entered into an agreement with Skechers for
Rose to do an advertising campaign, which would be launched
by a television commercial. (Compl. ¶ 84.) The contract
term was from October 1, 2014 to December 31, 2015, and
included an extension option. (Compl. ¶ 85.) A Skechers
commercial featuring Rose began airing in the months
preceding the National Football League's Super Bowl XLIX
and aired during the Super Bowl on February 1, 2015. (Compl.
¶¶ 86-87.) Rose contends that the commercial was
successful, and as a result, another Skechers commercial
featuring Rose was under consideration. (Compl. ¶ 89.)
Ultimately, Skechers did not exercise its extension option.
(Compl. ¶¶ 90-91.) Rose alleges that he would have
earned at least $250, 000.00 had Skechers exercised its
extension option and launched another commercial. (Compl.
6, 2016, Rose filed a complaint against Dowd for defamation
per se (Count 1), defamation (Count 2), and tortious
interference with existing or prospective contractual
relationship (Count 3). On August 9, 2016, Defendant moved to
dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. On
December 19, 2016, the Court held Oral Argument on
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss a
complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted." To survive a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal,556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). A claim is plausible on its face "when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Id. ...