United States District Court, D. Arizona
NEIL V. WAKE, District Judge.
Before the court is Defendants' Motion to Strike Portions of Plaintiff Amy Patterson's Complaint (Doc. 12). For the following reasons, the Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff alleges that sometime in late 2013, Defendant Joseph Popo, the "managing member" of three restaurants at which Plaintiff worked, began engaging in "systematic and continuous sexual harassment of Plaintiff." (Doc. 1 at 2, 4.) According to the Complaint, Popo also "repeatedly and aggressively treated her in a derogatory manner" by "using swear words toward Plaintiff" and "yelling" at her. (Id. at 7.) Despite repeated requests to desist, Popo allegedly refused to do so. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff alleges the abuse and harassment became so severe that she eventually quit working for Defendants in December 2014. (Id. at 5-6.) She then filed this suit, which charges Popo and the three restaurants he manages with Title VII sexual harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery, assault, and defamation. (Id. at 10-13.)
Two weeks later, Defendants filed a Counterclaim and Third-Party Complaint against Plaintiff and her attorney, Peter K. Strojnik, seeking damages and injunctive relief on ten causes of action, including business disparagement, wrongful interference with business relationships, libel per se, and trade libel. (Doc. 8.) The fine details of Defendants' allegations are not important to the pending Motion. In sum, Defendants allege that Plaintiff welcomed and reciprocated Popo's sexual advances, that she resigned in December 2014 because a customer had complained about her on Yelp, and that she and Strojnik subsequently "conspired with one another to extort money from Popo by threatening the disclosure of work related communications, potential criminal activity, and alleged affairs to the public at large." (Doc. 8 at 4-6.)
Plaintiff's defamation cause of action and one of her intentional infliction of emotional distress causes of action are grounded in the following allegations in her Complaint:
40. During the pre-litigation to this matter, in an effort to warn other women of the alleged predatory nature of Popo, Plaintiff distributed flyers advising of the allegations in this matter. Only a few hours after the flyers were distributed, Popo and the corporate Defendants directly or indirectly published the following defamatory statements about Plaintiff on a public forum called thedirty.com:
41. Statement No. 1: A person who calls himself "Amypattersonisawhore" defamed Plaintiff as follows: "This girl Amy Patterson is such a whore. Everyone knows she fucks anything and everything, she sends nude photos to everyone. I'll have to dig some out, Amy. I still have them. I heard you filed this BS... Nice try looking for a payday but everyone in Scottsdale knows you're a lying whore. Stop spreading your STDs while you are at it. There's enough herpes and genital warts. Thank God the one you gave me was curable. GTFO here. Everyone is laughing at your fake shit."
42. Statement No. 2: A person who calls himself "Anonymous" defamed Plaintiff as follows: "Just another slut trying to lie and get some money out of it... not surprised if she knew exactly what she was doing the whole time."
43. Statement No. 3: A person who calls himself "Amypattersonisawhore" defamed Plaintiff as follows: "Of course she knew. She was looking for a payday the whole time. The only problem is Amy Patterson is huge whore with the std's to prove it. Typical Scottsdale whore looking for free money and tired of working.' Well, if Amy Patterson does score some cash, she should spend every dollar on Valtrex and plastic surgery." Valtrex is a drug used to treat certain sexually transmitted diseases.
71. The corporate Defendants and Popo, directly or indirectly, upon information and belief, published or caused to be published the defamatory statements referenced herein.
72. The statements made were false and were published in a public forum for millions of persons to view.
73. The corporate Defendants' and Popo's defamatory statements were done with malice, and evil heart, and were so outrageous and so likely to cause tremendous harm to Plaintiff thereby entitling her to punitive damages. Defendants first subjected Plaintiff to sexual harassment and sexual assault only to follow by calling her a whore and ...