United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
S. Lasnik United States District Judge.
order comes before the Court on individual defendants Maurice
King, Lewis King, Glen Yoshioka, Dylan Wall, and Sara
White's “Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6).” Dkt. #7. For the following reasons
defendants' motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
complaint alleges that defendants Maurice King, Lewis King,
Glen Yoshioka, Dylan Wall, Sara White, and American Marriage
Ministries created and maintained two
Website”) and https://www.americanministrieslegal.com
(“AMM Legal Website”)-on which they made false
and disparaging statements about Universal Life Church
Monastery in an effort to mislead the public as to
plaintiff's credibility as an ordination service
provider. Dkt. #1 at 3 ¶ 18-19. Plaintiff alleges that
the AMM-vs-ULC Website purports to offer consumers a
“side-by-side comparison” of the two
organizations, but falsely attributes financial and legal
troubles to ULC Monastery knowing that they in fact concern
Universal Life Church California-a similarly named but
entirely distinct organization with which ULC Monastery is
neither related nor affiliated. Dkt. #1 at 4 ¶ 28.
Plaintiff alleges that the AMM Legal Website falsely implies
that the state of Tennessee does not recognize marriages
performed by Universal Life Church ministers. Dkt. #1 at 5
¶ 31-32. These claims and comparisons, plaintiff
asserts, are “likely to confuse or deceive”
consumers, threaten to create the impression that ULC
Monastery is “dishonest, fraudulent, or incompetent . .
. [and] deprive the ULC Monastery of the benefits of public
confidence.” Dkt. #1 at 8 ¶ 59. Accordingly,
plaintiff brought claims alleging violations of the Lanham
Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act (CPA).
See 15 U.S.C. 1125(a); RCW 19.86. Plaintiff
additionally brought a claim for defamation per se.
Individual defendants Maurice King, Lewis King, Glen
Yoshioka, Dylan Wall, and Sara White filed this motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim against them.
order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true,
“to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 570 (2007). While “detailed factual
allegations” are not required, a “[t]hreadbare
recital of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements do[es] not suffice.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rather,
to meet the plausibility standard a claim must “plead
factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable
inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct
alleged.” Id. In reviewing a complaint, the
Court disregards unsupported legal conclusions, which are not
entitled to the assumption of truth, and determines whether
the remaining well-pleaded factual allegations, assumed to be
true, plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Id. When considering a motion to dismiss under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the Court's scope of review is
generally limited to the contents of the complaint. Lee
v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 688 (9th Cir.
Ninth Circuit authority permits the Court to also consider
documents referenced extensively in the complaint, documents
whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose
authenticity is undisputed by the parties, and matters of
judicial notice. Northstar Fin. Advisors Inc. v. Schwab
Invs., 779 F.3d 1036, 1042-43 (9th Cir. 2015);
United States v. Ritchie, 342 F.3d 903, 908 (9th
Cir. 2003). Where the Court elects to treat such documents as
part of the complaint, their contents are assumed to be true
for the purposes of a motion to dismiss. Ritchie,
342 F.3d at 908. Plaintiff has requested the Court take
judicial notice of American Marriage Ministries' most
recent annual report in its consideration of the motion to
dismiss. Plaintiff has also placed before the Court
a document entitled “Deposition upon Oral Examination
of Glen Masa-Aki Yoshioka Buchanan” which contains oral
statements made by one of the individual defendants in this
case on January 24, 2019, in the context of a separate action
brought by American Marriage Ministries against Universal
Life Church Monastery. Neither document is mentioned in the
complaint. For the reasons stated in footnotes 1 and 2, the
Court has considered the contents of the document entitled
“Express Annual Report with Changes, ” but
declines to consider the document entitled “Deposition
upon Oral Examination of Glen Masa-Aki Yoshioka
Buchanan” in determining whether the complaint, taken
as a whole, gives rise to a plausible inference of actionable
conduct by individual defendants Maurice King, Lewis King,
Glen Yoshioka, Dylan Wall, and Sara White.
claim that they are shielded from liability by the corporate
form of American Marriage Ministries and that plaintiff's
complaint fails to allege adequate facts to support piercing
the corporate veil. Plaintiff does not, however, allege in
the complaint that the individual defendants should be liable
for the actions of American Marriage Ministries merely by
nature of their position as governing persons of the
organization. Rather, they allege that each defendant is
individually liable because they “directly participated
in and materially contributed to the creation, operation,
communication, and use in commerce” of websites
containing allegedly false statements about ULC Monastery.
Dkt. #1 at 3 ¶ 19. As a result, none of the claims
brought in the complaint require the Court to pierce the
corporate veil to hold the individual defendants personally
liable for actions they themselves allegedly took.
Individuals may be, and frequently are, held personally
liable for violations of the Lanham Act. See Committee
for Idaho's High Desert, Inc. v. Yost, 92 F.3d 814,
823 (9th Cir. 1996); Coastal Abstract Service, Inc. v.
First American Title Ins. Co., 173 F.3d 725 (9th Cir.
1999). Under the CPA, “[i]f a corporate officer
participates in the wrongful conduct, or with knowledges
approves of the conduct, then the officer, as well as the
corporation, is liable for the penalties.” State v.
Ralph Williams North West Chrysler Plymouth, Inc., 87
Wn.2d 298, 322 (1976). Finally, the alleged defamation is a
tort claim, and “a corporate officer or director is, in
general, personally liable for all torts which he authorizes
or directs or in which he participates notwithstanding that
he acted as an agent of the corporation and not on his own
behalf.” Facebook, Inc. v. Power Ventures,
Inc., 844 F.3d 1058, 1069 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting
Committee for Idaho's High Desert, Inc., 92 F.3d
at 823). The complaint alleges direct participation on the
part of each individual defendant. Accordingly, the question
of whether plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts to warrant
piercing the corporate veil is irrelevant to the claims
brought against the individual defendants.
Violations of the Lanham Act - 15 U.S.C. §
alleges that the individual defendants “engaged in . .
. Lanham Act violations knowingly, willfully, and
maliciously.” Dkt. #1 at 6 ¶ 43. The Lanham Act
reads in pertinent part:
(1) Any person who, on or in connection with any goods or
services, or any container for goods, uses in commerce any
word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination
thereof, or any false designation of origin, false or
misleading description of fact, or false or misleading
representation of fact, which--
(A) is likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to
deceive as to the affiliation, connection, or association of
such person with another person, or as to the origin,
sponsorship, or approval of his or her goods, services, or
commercial activities by another person, or
(B) in commercial advertising or promotion, misrepresents the
nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of
his or her or another person's goods, services, or
commercial activities, shall be liable in a civil action by
any person who ...