Law School Case Brief
Taha v. Bucks Cty - 9 F. Supp. 3d 490 (E.D. Pa. 2014)
To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.
Plaintiff Daryoush Taha was arrested by the Bensalem police in 1998, processed into custody, transferred to the Bucks County Correctional Facility ("BCCF"), and charged with a criminal offense. Although Taha believed himself innocent, he accepted an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition to ensure that the arrest and charge would be expunged. In 2000, the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas entered an expungement order. In 2007, however, Bucks County and the BCCF created a public website that included Taha's 1998 mugshot and arrest information. CIA obtained and re-published Taha's mugshot and arrest information, along with Taha's name and age, on the websites bustedmugshots.com and mugshotsonline.com. Taha subsequently brought suit against defendants Bucks County and the BCCF, along with the Citizens Information Associates, LLC ("CIA"), the company that owned and operated the websites at issue. Taha's Second Amended Complaint included three substantive claims against CIA: (1) dissemination of his criminal history record information in violation of § 9121 of Pennsylvania's Criminal History Record Information Act ("CHRIA"); (2) unauthorized use of a name or likeness in violation of 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8316; and (3) portraying him in a "false light," a subset of the tort of invasion of privacy. Subsequently, CIA filed a motion to dismiss Taha's claims pursuant to the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).
Pursuant to the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), should Taha’s claims be dismissed?
Yes, only to certain aspects of Taha’s claims.
The court granted the motion to dismiss in part and denied the motion in part. The court noted that in order to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to "state a claim to relief that was plausible on its face." On Taha's first claim alleging violation of § 9121 of Pennsylvania's Criminal History Record Information Act, the court ruled that there was no indication that the said section prohibited dissemination by purely private actors; it was enacted to regulate dissemination by criminal justice agencies only. Thus, the court dismissed Taha's first claim. On his second claim, which alleged unauthorized use of a name or likeness, the court dismissed it without prejudice. According to the court, Taha alleged no facts demonstrating that he invested time, effort and money to create "valuable interest" in his name or likeness. As regards the claim of "false light," the court determined that the circumstances at hand were sufficient to state a false-light claim that was plausible on its face.
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