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Powell v. Jones-Soderman

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

April 15, 2019

SCOTT POWELL, Plaintiff,
v.
JILL JONES-SODERMAN Defendant.

          RULING ON THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS

          MICHAEL P. SHEA, U.S.D.J.

         Plaintiff Scott Powell filed this action against Defendant Jill Jones-Soderman alleging that Jones-Soderman posted statements on a public website falsely accusing him of physically and sexually abusing his children. He brings claims for defamation per se, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Discovery closed on August 31, 2018. When neither party filed a motion for summary judgment by the deadline of October 1, 2018, I posted a notice reiterating the deadline for the parties' Joint Trial Memorandum. Two weeks later, Jones-Soderman filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). (ECF No. 39.) She argues that Powell has failed to state a claim on which relief can be granted. For the reasons set forth below, the motion is DENIED.

         I. Legal Standard

         “In deciding a Rule 12(c) motion, [courts] apply the same standard as that applicable to a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), accepting the allegations contained in the complaint as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party.” Burnette v. Carothers, 192 F.3d 52, 56 (2d Cir.1999). As under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must determine whether the Plaintiff has alleged “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). For a complaint to survive the motion, “[a]fter the court strips away conclusory allegations, there must remain sufficient well-pleaded factual allegations to nudge plaintiff's claims across the line from conceivable to plausible.” In re Fosamax Products Liab. Litig., 2010 WL 1654156, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 9, 2010). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009).

         II. Factual Allegations

         The following facts are taken from Powell's complaint (ECF No. 1) and are treated as true for the purposes of the motion for judgment on the pleadings.

         Defendant Jill Jones-Soderman is the founder and director of the Foundation for the Child Victims of the Family Courts. (Complaint, ECF No. 1 ¶ 4.) She was formerly a licensed clinical social worker, but her license has been suspended by the State of New York. (Id.) On April 25, 2016, Jones-Soderman published several “false and malicious” accusations against Powell on the Foundation's website. The complaint identifies ten allegedly false accusations:

A. That living with the plaintiff is “a death sentence” for the plaintiff's children;
B. That the plaintiff is a “vicious abuser” of his children;
C. That the plaintiff is an “accused child abuser”;
D. That the plaintiff's good reputation in his community is “based on the reluctance of those too fearful to take on the rage and intimidation to report him for crimes for which he should have been reported”;
E. That the plaintiff, on an ongoing basis, “hits the buttocks of his younger daughter, ” and is “grabbing/patting [her] buttocks” and the breasts of his older daughter;
F. That evidence of sexual assaults being committed by the plaintiff upon his minor daughters “are now on camera . . . .”;
G. That the plaintiff is “an accused child sexual abuser [who has been elevated] to the position of teacher in a program alerting parents to sexual abuse in the camp program, where he has been a long time camp Director at Woodway Country Club, in Darien, Connecticut. This camp Director has an institutional history, though undisclosed, of inappropriate behavior with teenage girls and ...

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