United States District Court, W.D. Washington
RALPH G. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
THE BOEING COMPANY, et al., Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART DEFENDANT WILEY'S MOTION
ROBERT S. LASNIK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on “Defendant Barbara
Wiley's Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6).” Dkt. # 22. Plaintiff alleges that defendant
Wiley lodged a false and retaliatory complaint of sexual
harassment against him after he removed her from a lead
position at Boeing. Plaintiff asserts claims of defamation
(Count IX), intentional infliction of emotional distress
(Count X), and negligent infliction of emotional distress
(Count XI) against Wiley. Defendant seeks dismissal of all
claims against her, arguing that they are barred by the
applicable statutes of limitation and/or are insufficiently
question for the Court on a motion to dismiss is whether the
facts alleged in the complaint sufficiently state a
“plausible” ground for relief. Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007).
A claim is facially plausible when the plaintiff pleads
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged. Plausibility requires pleading facts, as opposed to
conclusory allegations or the formulaic recitation of
elements of a cause of action, and must rise above the mere
conceivability or possibility of unlawful conduct that
entitles the pleader to relief. Factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level. Where a complaint pleads facts that are merely
consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops short
of the line between possibility and plausibility of
entitlement to relief. Nor is it enough that the complaint is
factually neutral; rather, it must be factually suggestive.
Somers v. Apple, Inc., 729 F.3d 953, 959-60 (9th
Cir. 2013) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).
All well-pleaded factual allegations are presumed to be true,
with all reasonable inferences drawn in favor of the
non-moving party. In re Fitness Holdings Int'l,
Inc., 714 F.3d 1141, 1144-45 (9th Cir. 2013). If the
complaint fails to state a cognizable legal theory or fails
to provide sufficient facts to support a claim, dismissal is
appropriate. Shroyer v. New Cingular Wireless
Servs., Inc., 622 F.3d 1035, 1041 (9th Cir. 2010).
reviewed the complaint and the memoranda submitted by the
parties, the Court finds as follows:
alleges that, on October 3, 2014, he learned that defendant
Wiley “was communicating to other employees that
Johnson groped her . . . .” Dkt. # 1 at ¶ 2.20.
Although the exact date is not specified, Wiley subsequently
filed a sexual harassment complaint against plaintiff.
Plaintiff was demoted on or about March 26, 2015, in part as
a result of the sexual harassment complaint. In Washington,
defamation claims are subject to a two-year statute of
limitations. RCW 4.16.100(1). This lawsuit was filed on May
argues that his defamation claim is not time-barred because
he could not have immediately known of the cause of his
injuries and/or because equitable tolling applies. Under the
discovery rule, the limitations period does not begin to run
until plaintiff knew or, in the exercise of diligence, should
have known the facts giving rise to the claim. Plaintiff
relies on cases in which it was unclear when the claimant
learned of the defamatory statements. In JM
Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. v. Wash., 363 Fed.Appx.
529, 531-32 (9th Cir. 2010), for example, the plaintiff
suffered unexplained injuries but did not know that
defendants' had made defamatory comments that caused
those injuries. In Kittinger v. Boeing Co., 21
Wn.App. 484, 488 (1978), the plaintiff heard rumors that bad
things were being said about him, but they were not specific
enough to put plaintiff on notice that he had been defamed.
In this case, in contrast, plaintiff alleges that he was
aware that Wiley had publicly accused him of groping her in
October 2014. While plaintiff characterizes this information
as a rumor, he was specifically informed both of the
statement and its content. If the statement were defamatory,
plaintiff knew it at the time. If there were any doubt as to
whether Wiley had made such statements, he had a duty to
investigate and bring suit within the time allowed by law. In
addition, the injuries arising from the sexual harassment
accusation and their causal connection to Wiley's
statements were also known more than two years before this
lawsuit was filed. The discovery rule cannot save
plaintiff's defamation claim.
argues that defendant Wiley has taken steps to conceal her
defamatory statements, thereby justifying equitable tolling
of the limitations period. As discussed above, however,
plaintiff had actual knowledge that Wiley had accused him of
sexual harassment in October 2014. Any subsequent concealment
related to the confidentiality with which the complaints was
treated by Boeing does not and should not stop the clock. Nor
is there any indication that Wiley engaged in deception or
gave false assurances that prevented plaintiff from timely
filing his claim. The defamation claim is
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
elements of the tort of outrage, or intentional infliction of
emotional distress, are (1) extreme or outrageous conduct,
(2) intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress,
and (3) severe emotional distress resulting from
defendant's conduct. Robel v. Roundup Corp., 148
Wn.2d 35, 41 (2002). To be actionable, defendant's
conduct must be “so outrageous in character, so extreme
in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency,
and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a
civilized community.” Grimsby v. Samson, 85
Wn.2d 52, 59 (1975). The question whether certain conduct is
sufficiently outrageous is ordinarily for the jury, but the
Court must initially determine whether reasonable minds could
differ on the issue. Dicomes v. State, 113 Wn.2d
612, 630 (1989). Plaintiff alleges that Wiley made knowingly
false accusations of sexual harassment against him, that she
intended to cause him emotional distress, and that the
statements did, in fact, cause him “emotional and
physical distress, psychological anxiety, depression, and
physical illness.” Dkt. # 1 at ¶¶ 3.43-3.45.
allegations in Lawson v. Boeing Co., 58 Wn.App. 261
(1990), were found insufficiently extreme or outrageous to
raise a question for the jury. In Lawson, female
employees complained that their supervisor sexually harassed
them, resulting in the supervisor's demotion. Lawson
asserted that the complaining employees “deliberately,
maliciously and outrageously lied about him, ”
assertions that mirror plaintiff's allegations here and
were taken as true at the summary judgment stage.
Nevertheless, the state court found that the complaints did
not reach the high threshold of outrageousness established in
Grimsby. Id. at 270. The Court likewise
finds that plaintiff's allegations, taken as true, do not
state a viable claim of outrage.
Negligent Infliction of ...