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In The United States District Court
This case is presently before the Court on defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ 9 ]. The Court has reviewed the record and the arguments of the parties and, for the reasons set out below, concludes that defendant's Motion to Dismiss [ 9] should be DENIED.
This case is one of the many civil suits that arose in the wake of the widely-publicized unsolved murder of six-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado on December 26, 1997. Plaintiff is a Boulder, Colorado resident who was named by defendants, Jon Benet's parents, in their book about their daughter's murder, The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How It's Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth, and on national television, as a suspect in JonBenet's death. Plaintiff claims that the statements made by defendants were untrue, and that defendants knew that the statements were untrue because Mrs. Ramsey committed the crime and Mr. Ramsey assisted her in covering it up and attempting to divert the police to other suspects. Plaintiff's original suit, filed May 11, 2000, contained only claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress by extreme and outrageous conduct. Plaintiff amended his complaint on June 15, 2000, to include claims for libel and slander as well. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss all claims against them under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12 (b) (6) for failure to state a claim.
I. Motion to Dismiss Standard
Under Federal Rule 12 (b) (6) a court may dismiss a claim for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. When deciding whether to dismiss a claim under Rule 12 (b) (6), a court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept the plaintiff's allegations of material fact as true. Beck v. Deloitte & Touche, 144 F. 3d 732, 735 (11th Cir. 1998). A Court may grant a motion to dismiss if it finds that plaintiff cannot prove any set of facts consistent with the complaint which would entitle him or her to relief. See Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). Defendants bear "the 'very high burden' of showing that the plaintiff cannot conceivably prove any set of facts that would entitle [it] to relief." Beck, 144 F. 3d at 736.
Before addressing the merits of plaintiff's libel and slander claims, the Court must first determine which, if any, of these claims are barred by the statute of limitations. Under S 9-3-33 of the Georgia Code, the statute of limitation for injuries to reputation is one year. (footnote one cited: The parties agree that Georgia law applies in this case) Plaintiff filed this lawsuit on May 11, 2000. He amended it to add claims for libel and slander on June 15, 2000. Therefore, any claims for libel or slander based on statements made prior to June 15, 1999 are barred by the statute of limitations. In particular, reports made by defendants to the Boulder Police Department, which plaintiff states occurred "by March 1, 1999" are barred by the statute of limitations.
Plaintiff has brought claims for both libel and slander, two subcategories of defamation. See Nida v. Nichols, 31 F. Supp. 2s 1358, 1375 n. 33 (N. D. Ga. 1998). Georgia law defines libel as "a false and malicious defamation of another, expressed in print, writing, pictures, or signs, tending to injure the reputation of the person and expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. O.C. G. A. S 51-5-1 (a). Georgia law recognizes two catagories of libel: libel per se and libel per quod. In Zarach v. Atlanta Claims Ass'n, 231 Ga. App. 685, 500 S. E. 2d 1 (1998), the court explained the difference between the two:
A written defamatory statement is actionable as either libel per se or libel per quod. Macon Telegraph Pub. Co. v. Elliot, 165 Ga. App. 719, 723 (5), 302 S. E. 2d 692 (1983). "Libel per se consists of a a charge that one is guilty of a crime, dishonesty, or immorality." (Citations and punctuation omitted.) Barber v. Perdue, 194 Ga. App. 287, 288, 390 S. E. 2d 234 (1989). Statements that tend to injure one in his trade or business also are libelous per se. See Southern Co. v. Hamburg, 220 Ga. App. 834, 840 (3), 470 S. E. 2d 467 (1996). When determining whether words are defamatory as a matter of law, courts may not hunt for strained onstructions, see Willis v. United Family Life Ins., 226 Ga. App. 661, 662 487 S. E. 2d 376 (1997), and must rely upon the words themselves in determining whether a statement was defamatory per se. See Matthews v. Atlanta Newspapers, 116 Ga. App. 337, 339, 157 S. E. 2d 300 (1967): Barber, supra. "Defamatory words which are actionable per se are those which are recognized as injurious on their face-without the aid of extrinsic proof. However, if the defamatory character of the words [does] not appear on their face but only become defamatory by the aid of extrinsic facts, they are not defamatory per se, but per quod, and are said to require innuendo. [Cit.]" Macon, supra at 723, 302 S. E. 2d 692. The law is abundantly clear in Georgia-words that are libelous per se do not need innuendo. World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 651,654, 139 S. E. 2d 440 (1964).
Id. at 688, 500 S. E. 2d at 4. (Footnote 2: In addition to the above Requirements, "(t)o be actionable, the libel must be "published"-i.e., communicated to a third party." Mullinax v. Miller, 242 Ga. App. 811, 814, 531 S.E. 2d 390, 392 (2000). There is no dispute over the fact that the allegedly defamatory comments in this case were indeed published.
Plaintiff states that defamatory remarks were made in the following passages from the Ramsey's book The Death of Innocence: ( Footnote three cited: The Death of Innocence Was published on or about March 17, 2000. (Defs. Br. In Supp. Of Mot. To Dismiss [9} at 2.)
Later that evening, as we were trying to relax, we received a call from Pam, who said that she had just gotten off the phone with a lady in Boulder. Jacqueline Dilson had reported to the Boulder police that she believed her live in lover, Chris Wolf, might be the person they were seeking. When she couldn't get them to respond, she finally called Patsy's mother, Nedra, and she in turn called Pam, who immediately called Jackie back.
Jacqueline Dilson worked at the Dakota ranch, a small retreat and conference Center near Lyons, Colorado, which pushed New Age experiences. She had allowed Wolf to move into her trailer in 1995. Chris Wolf turned out to be a reporter for the Colorado Daily and the Boulder County Business Report with a master's degree in journalism. His strange behavior before Christmas and early in the morning after Christmas raised Dilson's concern about what Wolf had been doing all night.
Apparently, Dilson had spent Christmas Day with Wolf, but he would not stay to have supper with her and her family. Somewhere around 10:00 p.m. Jacqueline went to bed, thinking Wolf had gone off on a spree of some kind or another. At around 5:30 a.m., sounds from the bathroom woke Jackie up, and she realized that Wolf was getting out of the shower. He had left dirty clothes all over the floor. Without explanation of where he'd been, Wolf crawled into bed and went to sleep.
Later the next day, Dilson and Wolf watched the television news reports of JonBenet's death. To her surprise, she observed him becoming quite agitated. Wolf cursed and said that he believed JonBenet had been sexually abused by her father. For the rest of the evening, Wolf brooded over the case.
According to Dilson, Wolf hated big business and had a fascination with world political disputes and politcal violence. Most importantly, she said that at one time Chris Wolf had been given a sweatshirt with the intitals SBTC (the signature on the ransom note), which stood for Santa Barbara Tennis Club. We considered this a very significant lead and gave all the information we had to the police.
We also learned that on January 30 police officers had stopped Wolf at 11:00 a.m. as he drove into Boulder; they discovered that he was driving with a suspended licence. The woman officer took him to the police station for further questioning when Wolf abruptly told her that the police would make better use of their time by chasing the killer of JonBenet Ramsey. He definitely caught everyone's attention with that remark. Detectives Ron Gossage and Steve Thomas started interrogating Chris Wolf with hard questions about our child.
When they asked Wolf to write some words from the ransom note, he refused. The police put him in handcuffs, but he still refused. Finally, the two detectives put him in jail, pending the resolution of his suspended license. Later that day Wolf was released. Wolf later reported that Steve Thomas and John Eller called him a few weeks afterward to come down to the police department. Once there, they told him "We have no interest in you." But they did confirm that someone had given his name to police as a possible suspect.
Whatever the police's intentions, Wolf went on our suspect list. He represented too many unanswered questions.
John and Patsy Ramsey, "The Death of Innocence: The Untold Story of JonBenet's Murder and How Its Exploitation Compromised the Pursuit of Truth 204-05 (2000).
By March 1, 1999, we had reported more information on Chris Wolf to the authorities. One person had seen Wolf go into an angry tirade aimed at me after he read an article about our company printed in the Boulder Daily Camera in early 1996. Apparently, Wolf had accused the company I worked for, Lockheed Martin of selling arms to South American countries.
Id. at 329.
Defendants first response regarding the statement made on page 329 of their book is that the statement is not defamatory because it does not tend to injure the reputation of the plaintiff and expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule. (Defs. Br. in Supp. Of Motion to Dismiss (9) at 17-5. In addition, defendants assert that even if the statement were construed to be defamatory, it does not constitute libel per se because it does not charge that the plaintiff is guilty of a crime, dishonesty, or immorality. Id. at 13-14) Defendants claim that because the statement did not constitute libel per se, plaintiff was required to plead special damages, which he failed to do. (Id. at 14). Taken in context, however, the Court concludes that plaintiffs had sufficiently plead libel per se based on this statement. Earlier in their book , defendants had already stated their suspicions that plaintiff may have killed their daughter. The message on page 329 gives further support for defendants' earlier assertion that plaintiff was possibly involved in the murder.
As to the passage on pages 204 and 205, defendants contend that the statements are not defamatory because they constitute non actionable opinion that is probably not false. (id. at 13) Defendants argue that because plaintiff does not contend that the first several paragraphs of this passage are false or defamatory, and that the last paragraph of the passage "Whatever the police's intentions. Wolf went on our suspect list. He represented too many unanswered questions."-therefore was merely defendants' opinion based on the preceding facts and not defamatory.
Georgia law is well settled that statements of opinion do not constitute actionable libel. See S & N Seafoods Co. V. Jaror Broadcasting of Atlanta, 194 Ga. App. 233, 235, 390 S. E. 2d 228, 230 (1989): White v. Hardegree, 190 Ga. App. 275, 277, 378 S. E. 2d. 877 879 (1989); Chance v. Munford, Inc., 178 Ga. App. 252, 252-253, 142 S. E. 2d. 746, 747 (1986); Berger v. Martindale-Hubbell, Inc., 176 Ga. App. 745, 747, 327 S. S 2d 770, 777 (1998); Morton v. Stewart, 153 Ga. App. 636, 666 s.8.2d 230 (1980), Greyson v. Savannah News-Press, Inc., 110 Ga. App. 561, 560, 139 S. E. 2d 347 352 (1964) "The expression of opinion on 'matters with respect to which reasonable men might entertain differing opinions'...is not libelous." Berger, 176 Ga. App. At 747. However, under Georgia law, courts may find as a matter of law that statements were not libelous only if the language is 'so clear, certain and unambiguous that the only possible construction is that it is not libelous or defamatory." World Ins. Co. v. Peavy, 110 Ga. App. 651, 654, 139 S. E. 2d, 440 442 (1964).
Under Georgia law, "[i] n considering whether a writing" is defamatory as a matter of law, we look at what construction would be placed on it by the average reader." Webster v. Wilkins, 217 Ga. App. 194, 195, 456 S. E. 2d 699, 701 (1995). There is no independent privilege for matters of opinion under the First Amendment. See Milkovich v. Lorain Journal Co., 497 U.S. 1 (1990); Harcrow v. Struhar, 236 Ga. App. 403, 511 S. E. 2d 545 (1999); Eidson v. Berry, 202 Ga. App. 587, 587 415 S. E. 2d 16, 17 (1992) (There is no 'wholesale defamation exemption for anything that might be labeled 'opinion'".)
Harcrow presents similar facts to the case at bar. In Harcrow, the plaintiffs sued their next door neighbor for, among other things, libel and slander. The defendant had published a notice that he placed in neighbors' mail boxes, which read:
NEIGHBORHOOD ALERT: SOMEONE HAS SHOT MY CAT! Hello Friends and Neighbors. Well, it used to be that your neighbors were your friends, but that is apparently not always true. On Thursday, I had to rush my bleeding kitty to the emergency vet clinic where the Veterinarian diagnosed my cat as being the victim of a gunshot wound. Now, the only people in the neighborhood who have expressed hatred for cats are John and Mary Ellen Struhar, and I'm not saying that they are responsible for this atrocious act, that will be determined by the Smyrna Police, but they are the prime suspects... And, really, such an act of violence would be in character for someone driven by hatred.
Id. at 403, 511 S. E. 2d at 545-46. Defendant admitted that he had no evidence as to who shot his cat, that he did not call the police after he had distributed the fliers, and that he did not tell the police that he suspected the plaintiffs. Id. at 403, 511 S. E. 2d at 546. The Court concluded that the writing was defamatory because it stated, "if not directly, then by strong implication, that the [plaintiffs] are the 'prime suspects' of the ...police in a determination as to who shot the cat." Id. at 404, 511 S. E. 2d at 546. Further, the Court stated, "the writing as a whole could be reasonably construed to imply that [defendants] shot [plaintiff's] cat and was therefore guilty of the crime of cruelty to animals. O.C.G.A. S 16-12-4." Id. The Court went on to state that it is libelous per se to state that a person is guilty of a crime, regardless of whether the statement is made "directly or by implication or innuendo." Id.
Defendant apparently attempted to argue that the writing was merely his opinion, and that the statement "I'm not saying that they are responsible for this atrocious act" somehow negated the other portions that imputed the crime to plaintiffs. The court held that this "disclaimer" did not negate the other sections which could reasonably be read to impute the crime to plaintiffs. As to the issue of opinion, the court first noted that there is "no wholesale defamation exemption for anything that might be labeled 'opinion.'" Id. (quoting Eidsen v. Berry, 202 Ga. App. 587, 588, 415 S. E. 2d 16 (1992). Instead, the "pivotal questions" are whether the statement can reasonably be interpreted as stating or implying defamatory facts and whether these assertions are capable of being proven false. Id.
The Court concludes that the statements made in defendants' book are reasonably read to impute the crime of murder to plaintiff. Although defendants do not directly state that plaintiff killed JonBenet, they claim that they did not kill their daughter, and name plaintiff as one of the people they suspected may have done so. In determining whether a statement is defamatory, '[t]he trial judge should read and construe the publication as a whole, and thereafter 'may find that it is not defamatory, that is tis defamatory, or that it is ambiguous and the question is one for a jury. In considering whether a writing is defamatory as a matter of law, we look...at what construction would be placed on it by the average reader." Mead v. True Citizen, Inc., 203 Ga. App. 361, 362, 417 S. E. 2d 16, 17 (1992) (citations omitted). The Court concludes that a jury could reasonably conclude from these statements, taken as a whole, that the Ramseys were imputing the murder of JonBenet to plaintiff.
The next question is whether these statements are capable of being proved false. Defendants claim that they are not because they merely represent their impressions at the time that plaintiff "represented too many unanswered questions." Plaintiff, however, argues that defendants killed JonBenet, and therefore had no basis for their supposed belief that plaintiff had something to do with her death. At this stage of the proceedings, the Court must take all facts in favor of the plaintiff. Assuming for the purpose of this order that defendants did know who killed JonBenet, and knew that the murderer was not plaintiff, their statements was not merely opinion, but was indeed a falsity.
In addition to establishing that defendants' statements constituted libel per se, however, plaintiff must also establish that defendants acted with "actual malice" because plaintiff had stipulated that for all purposes and issues in this litigation, he is a "limited purpose public figure." (Stipulation .) "A limited purpose public figure is 'an individual [who] voluntarily injects himself or is drawn into a particular public controversy and thereby becomes a public figure for a limited range of issues.'" Little v. Breland, 93 F. 3d 755, 757 (11th Cir. 1996) (quoting Gertz v. Robert Welch, inc., 418 U.S. 323 351 (1974)). Actual malice, in the New York Times v. Sullivan,. 376 U.S. 254, 280, (1964), sense, is knowledge that the defamatory matter was false or that it was not published with reckless disregard for whether it was false or not. Morton v. Gardner, 155 Ga. App. 600, 604, 271 S. E. 2d 733, 737 (1980).
Defendants do not discuss the issue of actual malice at any length, arguing instead that the Court should not even reach that issue. While plaintiff has clearly not pleaded a textbook case of actual malice, this Court finds that plaintiff has alleged sufficient facts at this time to support this claim. The standard for surviving a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is very low, and the Court concludes at this point, plaintiff has stated a claim against defendants for libel regarding statements made in their book, The Loss of Innocence.
In addition to his claims for libel, plaintiff asserts that several statements made by defendants to the press fit within one of the categories of slander per se recognized by Georgia law: imputing to another a crime punishable by law. O.C. G.A. S 51-5-4 (a). In particular, plaintiff referes to defendants' March 24, 2000 appearance on the Today Show with host Katie Couric. During the course of the broadcase, the following discourse occurred:
Katie Couric: You pepper the book with fleeting references to some other people that you seem to question. You talk about Bill McReynolds, who played Santa at your Christmas party. You also mention his wife who, in a strange twist, wrote a play years before about a girl murdered in a basement.
John Ramsey: The point in the book was to clarify from our viewpoint why these people have been mentioned a lot in the media, and also to point out that there are legitimate leads that need to be followed.
Katie Couric: You also mention Chris Wolf, a total stranger whose girlfriend reported that he disappeared on Christmas night and was very agitated, rather-when he watched the news of the murder on TV.
John Ramsey: Uh-huh (affirmative).
Katie Couric: Why do you mention him.
John Ramsey: Because he'd been widely mentioned in the news. And we wanted to clairfy the facts that we knew.
John Ramsey: I can tell you when-when we first started looking at-at one particular lead early on-my reaction was, "This is it. This is the killer." And our investigator said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa." He'd say,"Don't do a Boulder Police on me. Don't rush to conclusions." (Transcript of Today Show, March 24, 2000.) The parties agree that as Mr. Ramsey made the last statement, NBC displayed a picture of Chris Wolf on the screen. Defendants, however, state that "[o]n its face, the [last statement made by Mr. Ramsey] does not appear to even to refer to Plaintiff" and that "whether NBC displayed Plaintiff's picture while Mr. Ramsey spoke those words was outside the Ramseys' control and cannot form the basis of a claim against them." (Defs.' Br. in Supp. of Mot. To Dismiss  at 20.)
Defendants contend that the abovementioned statements do not constitute slander for two reasons. First, defendants argue that plaintiff does not contend that the statements are false-that is, plaintiff does not maintain that Mr. Ramsey did not have the reaction that plaintiff was a possible suspect. Second, defendants claim that the statement constitutes non-actionable opinion. (Id. at 20-21.) Plaintiff responds that a reasonable reading of Mr. Ramsey's statements is that plaintiff killed JonBenet, and that it is this statement that he alleges to be false and defamatory. In addtion, plaintiff contends that defendants' statement went beyond mere opinion because it implied undisclosed facts-specifically, that the Ramseys had information linking plaintiff to JonBenet's murder. (P. 's Mem. Of Law in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. To Dismiss  at 7. Plaintiff states, "When John Ramsey made the televised statement that 'This is it. This is the killer." He was offering more than just his 'opinion.' He was implying that there were facts provided to him by his private investigators, which remained undisclosed to the television viewer, which lef him to the conclusion that Chris Wolf was 'the killer'". (Id.) Plaintiff further argues that, under Harcrow, Mr. Ramsey's "disclaimer" does not save his comment from being slanderous.
As with the libelous statements discussed above, plaintiff textbook, he has presented sufficient evidence at this point to survive defendant's motion to dismiss on the slander claim.
IV. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
Under Georgia law, the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress exists when a defendant "intentionally or recklessly, through conduct that is extreme and outrageous, causes severe emotional distress to a plaintiff." Atakpa v. Perimeter OB-GYN Assocs., P.C., 912 F. Supp. 1566, 1577 (N. D. Ga. 1994) (Carnes, J.) (citing Moses v. Prudential Ins. Co., 187 Ga. App. 222, 224-225, 369 S. E. 2d 541 (1988)). See also Lightning v. Roadway Express, Inc., 60 F. 3d 1551, 1557 (11th Cir. 1995); Yarbray v. Southern Bell Tel and Tel. Co., 261 Ga. 703, 706, 409 S. E. 2d 835, 837 (1991). The two year statute of limitations for personal injury claims applies to claims for emotional distress. Therefore, any claims arising out of conduct occurring more than two years before plaintiff filed his original complaint on May 11, 2000 are barred.
To maintain a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, plaintiff must establish: (1) the conduct giving rise to the claim was intentional or recless; (2) the conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) the conduct caused emotional distress; and (4) the emotional distress was severe. See Desmond v. Troncalli Mistsubishi, 243 Ga. App. 71, 532 S. E. 2d 463 (2000). In addition, Georgia courts recognize the "impact rule" in emotional distress cases-that is, where no physical injury occurs, the plaintiff just show that the conduct is willful, malicious or wanton. See Ryckeley v. Callaway, 261 Ga. 828, 412 S. E. 2d 826 (1992). Not only does the plaintiff have to establish the four elements laid out in Desmond, but he must also show that the conduct was directed toward him. Id. at 829, 412, S.E. 2d at 827 ("even malicious, willful or wanton conduct will not warrant a recovery for infliction of emotional distress if the conduct was not directed toward the plaintiff"). Defendants contend that plaintiff's claim fails as to this point because all of the remarks on which plaintiff bases his claim were made to third parties or to the media rather than to plaintiff.
The Georgia Court of Appeals has held that "[d]efamatory remarks made to others or to the public in general are classic examples of conduct that , though harmful to the plaintiff, was directed toward the hearer of the statements, not the plaintiff, and thus is not actionable as intentional infliction of emotional distress." Lively v. McDaniel, 240 Ga. App. 132, 143, 522 S. E. 2d 711, 713 (1999). See also Munoz v. American Lawyer Media, L.P., 236 Ga. App. 462, 465, 512 S.E. 2d 347, 351 (1999) ("It is firmly established that even malicious, wilful or wanton conduct will not support a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress if the conduct was not directed toward the plaintiff.") Defendants point out that in his complaint, plaintiff states that this claim is based on statements "to the Boulder, Colorado police, district attorney, and to the public at large." (Am. Compl.  at SS 32-33.) As to the statements made by the Ramseys in The Death of Innocence or on The Today Show or other television broadcasts, because these statements were directed to third parties or the public and not to plaintiff, they cannot support a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Plaintiff argues however, that defendants' conduct was directed at him because defendants hired a private investigator to delve into his life in hopes of getting the Boulder Police interested in him. (Pl. Mem. Of Law in Opp'n to Defs.' Mot. To Dismiss  at 11.) Plaintiff fails to cite any case law in support of his position, and instead states that this is a question of first impression that requires a fact intensive inquiry. (Id. at 10-11 ("Because there are so few millionaire murder suspects such as the Ramseys still 'at large' who have devoted a substantial portion of their fortune and time to 'investigating' the private lives of people like Chris Wolf, in hope of diverting suspicion away from themselves, this case remains one of 'first impression' with respect to the conduct complained of by the plaintiff.")).
Taking plaintiff's allegations as true at this point, the next question becomes whether defendants' conduct in hiring investigators to collect evidence implicating plaintiff in JonBenet's death rises to the requisite level of outrageousness to state a claim under Georgia law. "Whether a claim rises to the requisite level of outrageousness and egregiousness to sustain a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is a question of law." Yabray, 261 Ga. At 706, 409 S. E. 2d at 838. See id. at 706, 837 (quoting Restatement (Second) of Torts S 46 (1) cmt. D ("Generally, the case is one in which the recitation of the facts to an average member of the community would arouse him to exclaim 'Outrageous!'"). Due to the "justifiable concern" that "causes of action grounded upon emotional distress may give rise to fictitious, inflated or trivial claims unless properly circumscribed," the Georgia courts require that the conduct be "of such serious import as to naturally give rise t such intense feelings of humiliation, embarassment, fright or extreme outrage as to cause severe emotional distress." Moses, 187 Ga. App. At 224-25, 369 S. E. 2d at 543-44. Moreover, it is a question of law "[w]hether a claim rises to the requisite level of outrageousness and egregiousness to sustain a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress." Yarbray, 261 Ga. At 706, 409 S.E. 2d at 838. To determine if plaintiff's allegations raise to the requisite level of outrageousness to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the Court must determine if plaintiff's allegations "shows that reasonable persons might find the presence of extreme and outrageous conduct." Id.
Defendants' conduct must be "so terrifying or insulting as naturally to humiliate, embarrass or frighten plaintiff." Lightning, 60 F. 3d at 1557. The Court concludes that knowingly implicating a person whom one knows to be innocent in a murder investigation potentially rises to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct. Accordingly, while plaintiff's claims based on statements made to the police and the media fail because they were communicated to third parties rather than to plaintiff, plaintiff's claims relating to the Ramseys hiring a private investigator to implicate him in the murder may provide the basis for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, the Court is concerned that this claim may be barred by the statute of limitations. While plaintiff's claim survives defendants' motion to dismiss, at the summary judgement stage, plaintiff must show that this conduct continued post May 11, 1998, or it will likely be barred by the two year statute of limitations.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that defendants' Motion to Dismiss  is DENIED.
So ordered, this 9 day of February, 2001.