United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Tampa Division
CHRISTOPHER MARK PARIS and OXEBRIDGE QUALITY RESOURCES INTERNATIONAL, LLC, Plaintiffs,
WILLIAM LEVINSON, LEVINSON PRODUCTIVITY SYSTEMS, PC, a Pennsylvania corporation, GUBERMAN PMC, a Connecticut corporation, DARYL GUBERMAN, and DONALD LABELLE, Defendants.
WILLIAM F. JUNG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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. 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
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
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. 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),
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.
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).
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.
Florida's Long-Arm Statute
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
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.
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.
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.
¶¶ 24, 146. That ...