Monday, November 11, 2013

Muzikowski v. Paramount Pictures Corp. case brief

Muzikowski v. Paramount Pictures Corp. case brief summary
322 F.3d 918 (7th Cir. 2003)

Appellant individual sued appellees, corporations that produced a movie, and alleged defamation on the theory that one particular character easily identifiable as himself was portrayed in a negative way, which amounted to disseminating falsehoods about him. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division granted the corporations' motion to dismiss. The individual appealed.


Despite the disclaimer in the credits of the movie that the story was fictitious, the individual contended that the main character in the movie was in fact a portrayal of him since they experienced almost exactly the same things.


  • The appellate court found that because the individual had already voluntarily dismissed his complaint, his second voluntary dismissal operated as an adjudication upon the merits under Fed. R. Civ. P. 41(a)(1), and thus, was a final judgment from which the individual could appeal under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1291. 
  • Because Illinois' heightened pleading standard for complaints that based claims on publications that did not literally name the plaintiff did not apply in a federal court, the individual's claim for defamation per se did not fall under the special pleading regime of Fed. R. Civ. P. 9, and he was entitled to the usual rules for notice pleading under Fed. R. Civ. P. 8. 
  • Thus, because the district court improperly relied on Illinois pleading rules when it granted the corporations' motion to dismiss, the individual's allegations entitled him to the chance to prove his claim under a defamation per se theory and his claim for the tort of false light privacy.
The judgment of the district court was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

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