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Haswood v. American Polygraph Association

United States District Court, D. Arizona

February 26, 2015

Melanie Haswood, et al., Plaintiffs,
American Polygraph Association, et al., Defendants.


G. MURRAY SNOW, District Judge.

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 54.) For the following reasons, the Court grants the Motion.


This case arises from Defendant American Polygraph Association's January 29, 2013 revocation of the Arizona Polygraph School of Science's accreditation. This case has an extensive procedural history that has been detailed at length in a related action, Wells v. American Polygraph Association, No. 13-CV-607-PHX-GMS (D. Ariz. July 28, 2014) (Docs. 119, 136). Prior to the severance of this action from Wells, this court dismissed with prejudice all of Plaintiffs' claims that sought reparations on behalf of the School. (Id. ). That order left in place the causes of action for which dismissal is now sought.

Relevant for purposes of the instant Motion, Plaintiffs are former students and/or current employees at the Polygraph School of Science, and are alleging federal and state antitrust violations, interference with economic relations, and business disparagement/defamation stemming from the Polygraph School's loss of accreditation. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiffs contend that the APA's decreditation of the Polygraph School was part of a broad predatory and anti-competitive scheme by Defendants to enrich their market share of students seeking education in the specialized field of polygraph technologies. As a result, Plaintiffs have purportedly suffered pecuniary harms as well as injuries to their reputations, lost employment, diminished employment prospects, and denial of professional association membership. Defendants now move to dismiss the Complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12. (Doc. 54.)


I. Legal Standard

To survive dismissal for failure to state a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain more than "labels and conclusions" or a "formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action"; it must contain factual allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). While "a complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations... it must plead enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Clemens v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 534 F.3d 1017, 1022 (9th Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "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) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

When analyzing a complaint for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6), "[a]ll allegations of material fact are taken as true and construed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Smith v. Jackson, 84 F.3d 1213, 1217 (9th Cir. 1996). However, legal conclusions couched as factual allegations are not given a presumption of truthfulness, and "conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are not sufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss." Pareto v. FDIC, 139 F.3d 696, 699 (9th Cir. 1998).

II. Application

A. Standing

As this Court has repeatedly stated, Plaintiffs may not assert rights on behalf of the Polygraph School. Thus, as a preliminary matter, to the extent that some Plaintiffs identify themselves only as employees of the school ( see Doc. 1 at 13-14), they have alleged no injury-in-fact that is fairly traceable to the APA's decreditation and exclusion of Polygraph School graduates from its membership ranks. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61(1992). Accordingly, the claims of the Plaintiffs who, as employees, have failed to plead any concrete and individualized harm incurred by the allegedly unlawful conduct are hereby dismissed.

B. Antitrust Violations

Section 1 of the Sherman Act provides: "Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several states... is hereby declared to be illegal." 15 U.S.C. § 1. Section 2 prohibits "monopolization, attempts to monopolize, or conspiracies to monopolize interstate commerce. Id. § 2. The Arizona Uniform State Antitrust Act, Ariz. Rev. Stat. §§ 44-1402-03, contains similar proscriptions and is interpreted in ...

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