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Mark Hanby Ministries, Inc. v. Lubet

March 30, 2007

MARK HANBY MINISTRIES, INC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JENIVIEVE LUBET, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan K. Lee United States Magistrate Judge

Lee

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

I. Introduction

Before the Court is the Defendant's motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction [Doc. No. 2]. The Court has considered Defendant's brief [Doc. No. 3] and affidavit [Doc. No. 4] in support of her motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs' response in opposition to Defendant's motion to dismiss [Doc. No. 12] and affidavit [Doc. No. 13], and Defendant's reply [Doc. No. 14]. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion to dismiss the Plaintiffs' complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2) [Doc. No. 2] is DENIED.

II. Background

A. The Verified Complaint

Plaintiffs, Mark Hanby Ministries, Inc. ("MHMI"), Beyth Shan Foundational Ministries, Inc. ("BSFMI") , and Mark D. Hanby ("Hanby") (collectively "Plaintiffs"), commenced this action on April 11, 2006 in the Hamilton County (Tennessee) Circuit Court*fn1 against Defendant Jenivieve Lubet ("Defendant") [Doc. No. 1-2 at 3]. Plaintiffs assert that Defendant is the step-daughter of Hanby, as the result of the marriage between Hanby and Defendant's mother, Linda Hanby [id. at 4-5]. As of April 11, 2006, an action for divorce between the Hanbys was pending in the Bledsoe County (Tennessee) Circuit Court [id. at 5-6]. In summary, Plaintiffs assert that beginning on February 17, 2006, Defendant "intentionally has published defamatory, misleading, malicious and untrue publications, communications and activities by email communications" to individual employees of Plaintiffs' ministries as well as supporters of Plaintiffs both within and without the State of Tennessee [id. at 6]. Plaintiffs also assert Defendant published the aforementioned communications globally through the use of the internet [id.].

Plaintiffs' complaint is verified by Hanby [id. at 19]. Plaintiffs have asserted claims under the law of the State of Tennessee against Defendant for: (1) interference with the contractual business relations of MHMI and BSFMI [Count I]; (2) defamation of MHMI and BSFMI [Count II]; (3) shame, contempt, ridicule and embarrassment of Hanby [Count III]; (4) defamation against Hanby [Count IV]; (5) intentional infliction of emotional distress against Hanby [Count V]; (6) invasion of the privacy of Hanby [Count VI]; (7) false light invasion of the privacy of Hanby [Count VII]; (8) violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act, Tenn. Code Ann. § 47-18-101, et seq., [Count VIII]; and (9) a claim for a restraining order against Defendant under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 65.03 [Count IX] [id. at 8-13]. Plaintiffs seek a permanent injunction against Defendant; compensatory damages and exemplary damages in the amount of $100,000 per publication or $1,500,000, whichever is greater; attorney's fees and costs [id. at 13-15]. Attached to Plaintiffs' complaint are an ex parte temporary restraining order against Defendant issued by the Hamilton County Circuit Court on April 11, 2006 [Doc. No. 1-2 at 20-22] and several e-mails allegedly sent by Defendant [Doc. Nos. 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-7 and 1-8].

B. Defendant's Affidavit

In her affidavit, Defendant states she is a resident of the State of North Carolina, has had no physical contact with the State of Tennessee, has not traveled to Tennessee, has not directed mail to any resident of the State of Tennessee and has not had face-to-face contact with any Plaintiff or the agent for any Plaintiff during the period beginning February 16, 2006 [Doc. No. 4 at 1, ¶ 4]. Defendant's affidavit also states:

5. I had one telephone call in which I left a message to Justin Redden, an employee of Mark Hanby Ministries, Inc. based in Chattanooga, TN, requesting information about what was happening with the litigation involving my mother, Linda Hanby. Mark Hanby, Jr., a resident of the State of Arizona, returned my call.

6. I sent emails to Justin Redden's email address. In these emails I discussed what Mark Hanby has done and continues to do to my mother, Mark Hanby's inappropriate actions with other women, and Mark Hanby's misrepresentation of himself to his staff and other ministers associated with Mark Hanby Minstries.

7. I also posted comments on a political blog, as well as a religious internet message board which to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief, are not based in or run by any individual in the State of Tennessee.

8. The blog upon which I posted was regarding a mentor of Mark Hanby. I merely posted facts about Mr. Hanby, and other individuals added on to the blog regarding Mr. Hanby. I did post several responses to posts.

9. Finally, I sent group emails to parishioners of Mr. Hanby, in response to a group email Mr. Hanby originally sent out, but I am not aware that any of them were located in the State of Tennessee.

[Id. at 2].

C. Allison's Affidavit

Attached to Plaintiffs' response in opposition to Defendant's motion to dismiss is the affidavit of Dale A. Allison, Jr. ("Allison"), a member of the Board of Directors of MHMI and BSFMI, which are located in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee [Doc. No. 13 at 1, ¶¶ 4,6]. Allison's affidavit states that Defendant is a former employee of MHMI and worked for MHMI until 2004, when she moved to North Carolina [id. at 2, ¶ 7]. Allison's affidavit further states in pertinent part:

9. During her period of employment with Mark Hanby Ministries, Inc. Jenivieve Lubet had access to sensitive and confidential materials of her employer. The contents of these materials would include names and addresses of ministry supporters.

10. During 2006, Mark Hanby Ministries, Inc. and Beyth Shan Foundational Ministries, Inc., as well as her stepfather, Dr. Mark D. Hanby, were the subject of a series of devastating communications from Jenivieve Lubet which were directed to ministry supporters.

11. Many ministry supporters are residents of the State of Tennessee and received Ms. Lubet's defamatory communications, including the following persons: Kimball Knight (Brentwood, Tennessee), J. Z. Valentine (Chattanooga, Tennessee), Charlie and Wanda Rawlins (Dunlap, Tennessee), and Dickie Porter (Chattanooga, Tennessee).

12. As a result of Jenivieve Lubet's activities, the ministries lost many long-time supporters resulting in economic damage to the ministries.

13. As a specific example, Charlie and Wanda Rawlins of Dunlap, Tennessee, terminated their . . . financial support of the ministries following their receipt of ...


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