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Paris v. Levinson

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division

July 9, 2019

CHRISTOPHER MARK PARIS and OXEBRIDGE QUALITY RESOURCES INTERNATIONAL, LLC, Plaintiffs,
v.
WILLIAM LEVINSON, LEVINSON PRODUCTIVITY SYSTEMS, PC, a Pennsylvania corporation, GUBERMAN PMC, a Connecticut corporation, DARYL GUBERMAN, and DONALD LABELLE, Defendants.

          ORDER

          WILLIAM F. JUNG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter comes to the Court on motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Levinson, Levinson Productivity Systems, PC (LPS), Guberman, and LaBelle. Dkts. 8, 9, 20, 25.[1] Plaintiffs Paris and Oxebridge Quality Resources International, LLC (“Oxebridge”) have responded in opposition. Dkts. 32, 37. The Court heard argument on May 31, 2019. Dkt. 48. Defendants Guberman, Guberman PMC (GPMC), and LaBelle did not attend the noticed hearing. Id. The Court DENIES the motions.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Paris is a resident of Tampa, Florida and founder of Oxebridge, a Florida corporation with its principal place of business in the same city. Dkt. 1 ¶¶ 11-12, 45, 53-55. Defendant Levinson is a Pennsylvania resident who operates LPS, a Pennsylvania corporation, to facilitate his consulting business. Dkt. 25 ¶ 4; Dkt. 25-2. Defendant Guberman is domiciled in Connecticut and is the owner and operator of GPMC, which is also registered in Connecticut. Dkt. 47 ¶ 4. Defendant LaBelle is a resident of Massachusetts. Dkt. 9 ¶ 4. The parties are all involved in the international standardization community, and this suit stems from an ongoing feud that has mostly taken place over the internet.

         Plaintiffs' Complaint alleges that Defendants have engaged in tortious conduct including trademark infringement, civil conspiracy, defamation, and interference with business relationships. Dkt. 1. All but one of the Defendants have moved to dismiss the Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction.[2] Defendants LaBelle and Guberman also move to dismiss the counts against them for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for Plaintiffs' failure to provide a short and plain statement of the claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), 12(b)(1).[3]

         DISCUSSION

         The Court first determines that it has personal jurisdiction over Defendants. The Court then finds that dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is inappropriate.

         I. Personal Jurisdiction

         Plaintiff bears the burden of “establishing a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant.” Zapata v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., No. 12-21897-civ, 2013 WL 1100028, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 15, 2013) (citation omitted). Where a defendant submits affidavits to the contrary, “the plaintiff is required to substantiate the jurisdictional allegations in the complaint by affidavits or other competent proof, and not merely reiterate the factual allegations in the complaint.” Polskie Linie Oceaniczne v. Seasafe Transport A/S, 795 F.2d 968, 972 (11th Cir. 1986) (citation omitted). “[If] a plaintiff proffers no competent evidence to establish jurisdiction in opposition to the denials of the jurisdictional allegations contained in the defendant's affidavit, a district court may find the defendant's unrebutted denials sufficient to negate the plaintiff's jurisdictional allegations.” Zapata, 2013 WL 1100028, at *2 (citation omitted).

         The Court's inquiry is two-fold: “(1) whether personal jurisdiction exists over the nonresident defendant . . . under Florida's long-arm statute, and (2) if so, whether that exercise of jurisdiction would violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” Louis Vuitton Malletier, S.A. v. Mosseri, 736 F.3d 1339, 1350 (11th Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). The Court finds that jurisdiction exists under the state long-arm statute and that exercise of jurisdiction would not violate due process.

         1. Florida's Long-Arm Statute

         Under Florida's long-arm statute, a nonresident submits to specific jurisdiction by, among other things, “[c]omitting a tortious act within this state.” Fla. Stat. § 48.193(1)(a)(2). Because the Court finds that Plaintiff has satisfied subsection (a)(2) as to all Defendants, the Court need not determine whether it possesses general jurisdiction or specific jurisdiction under an alternate basis.

         The gravamen of Plaintiffs' claims is the allegedly defamatory statements Defendants posted online. These statements aver that, among other things, Paris is bankrupt, that Oxebridge does not exist, and that Paris supports terrorism. Dkt. 1 ¶ 61-62. Plaintiff also alleges that Levinson registered the copycat domain name www.oxebridge.biz and other sites that contained defamatory statements against Plaintiffs. Id. ¶ 63. Defamatory material was also posted on other websites. Id. ¶ 76.

         According to Plaintiff, Guberman and LaBelle “often reposted information originally posted by Levinson or Smith, in order to disparage and defame Paris.” Id. ¶ 145. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants, along with former Defendant Smith, “have worked together reposting defamatory material against the Plaintiffs, commenting on the defamatory posts and adding additional defamatory material.” Id. ¶ 42. Furthermore, Guberman and LaBelle allegedly disseminated over “180 ‘press releases,' videos, postings and publications defaming Paris, which were circulated internationally through LaBelle's network of press release distribution companies, ” including online. Id. ¶¶ 157, 160. Guberman and LaBelle have also allegedly posted defamatory content on Youtube and LinkedIn, among other websites. Id. ¶¶ 161, 165.

         Plaintiffs further allege that Guberman and LaBelle harassed Oxebridge clients, including those based in Florida, causing the loss of Florida clients. Id. ¶ 26. According to the Plaintiffs, Guberman also recorded a phone conversation between Paris in Florida and a third party, the contents of which Guberman and LaBelle distributed online. Id. ΒΆΒΆ 24, 146. That ...


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