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Neiman-Marcus v. Lait - 13 F.R.D. 311 (S.D.N.Y. 1952)


Where the group or class disparaged is a large one, absent circumstances pointing to a particular plaintiff as the person defamed, no individual member of the group or class has a cause of action.


Plaintiffs were three classes of employees of plaintiff company, comprised of nine models, 15 salesmen, and 30 saleswomen. Defendant published an article that contained allegedly libelous and defamatory statements about the company and the classes of plaintiffs. Subsequently, plaintiffs and company brought suit against defendant for damages arising from the alleged libel. Defendant moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a cause of action upon which relief could be granted, under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), or alternatively, to have plaintiffs file an amended complaint wherein each plaintiffs' claim was separately plead. The court ruled that: (1) because the class of saleswomen was so large and the alleged libelous words were directed at the group generally, they had no cause of action; (2) the classes comprised of models and salesmen had sufficiently plead injury, but were required to file amended complaints for their separate and distinct injuries.


Did the employees of Plaintiff Company show a cause of action?




Giving the plaintiff saleswomen the benefit of all legitimate favorable inferences, the defendants' alleged libel cannot reasonably be said to concern more than the saleswomen as a class. There is no language referring to some ascertained or ascertainable person. Nor is the class so small that it follows that defamation of the class infects the individual of the class. This Court so holds as a matter of law since it is of the opinion that no reasonable man would take the writers seriously and conclude from the publication a reference to any individual saleswoman. Accordingly it is the opinion of this Court that as a matter of law the individual saleswomen do not state a claim for libel upon which relief can be granted and the motion to dismiss their cause of action is granted.

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