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To survive a Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) 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. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. To prevail on a claim for unjust enrichment in New York, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant benefitted at the plaintiff's expense and that equity and good conscience require restitution. To make out a prima facie case under N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 349, a plaintiff must demonstrate that 1) the defendant's deceptive acts were directed at consumers, 2) the acts are misleading in a material way, and 3) the plaintiff has been injured as a result.
The Huffington Post was a popular website launched as a for-profit enterprise in May 2005. Plaintiffs Jonathan Tasini and Molly Secours et al., were online essayists, or bloggers in the vernacular, who have provided content to The Huffington Post in exchange for exposure for their work. Though The Huffington Post generated revenue through advertising, it has never paid, nor promised to pay, plaintiffs for their submissions in any way other than through the promotion that comes along with having work published on The Huffington Post. In early 2011, defendant AOL Inc., purchased The Huffington Post. According to plaintiffs, part of that value was created by the content they submitted to The Huffington Post. Plaintiffs then brought this suit seeking to recover that value. Plaintiffs alleged two causes of action, first, unjust enrichment, second, deceptive business practice in violation of New York General Business Law. The district court dismissed the plaintiffs' entire amended complaint with prejudice pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiffs appealed arguing both that their claims should not have been dismissed and that they should not have been dismissed with prejudice.
Did the district court err in dismissing the plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment and deceptive business practice complaint with prejudice?
The judgment of the district court was affirmed. The court held that as to the unjust enrichment, plaintiff’s argument had no basis in the amended complaint as nowhere in the amended complaint, did they alleged that defendants represented that their work was purely for public service or that the site would not subsequently be sold to another company. The court further held that the district court amply explained why the amended complaint failed to allege facts that, even taken as true, made out the first two elements for a violation of N.Y. Gen. Bus. Law § 349. The amended complaint did not allege that the challenged acts were consumer-oriented or that they were misleading in a material way. Thus, the court ruled that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the amended complaint with prejudice.