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Lorne Lynn Armstrong v. Nbc Universal

June 6, 2011



On April 25, 2011, Plaintiff Lorne Lynn Armstrong, a convicted inmate currently incarcerated at the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, initiated this civil action against NBC Universal Inc. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims because it is clear from the face of the complaint that they are time barred. The Court will allow Plaintiff's state law claims (invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence) to proceed for further development.


Plaintiff alleges that on October 18, 2007, Defendant, in concert with local police authorities, conducted a "sting operation" in Bowling Green, Kentucky. As part of the sting, Plaintiff claims that Defendant "lured" him to the sting house. Prior to that date he alleges that he had been chatting with a "decoy" in an adult chat room. The decoy claimed to be an underage female. She invited Plaintiff to meet her at the sting house. Initially, Plaintiff declined the invitation. However, after the decoy persisted, he agreed to meet the girl at a house in Bowling Green on October 18, 2007.*fn1 When Plaintiff arrived at the house, he was placed under arrest and taken into custody by the local police.

Plaintiff states that Defendant was present at the sting house and filmed his arrest and search. Defendant then aired the events on national television in a series entitled "To Catch a Predator." Plaintiff claims that Defendant has also made material related to his on-line conversations with the decoy available to the public on various internet sites.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's "libel, slanderous and defamatory accusations" have caused him mental anguish. Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant's participation in his arrest and search violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth Amendment. He also asserts state claims laws for intentional disclosure of private facts, intrusion on the right to be left alone, harassment/intentional infliction of emotion distress, and negligence. Finally, he asserts that Defendant is liable for violating the "Journalistic Code of Ethics."


When a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the trial court must review the complaint and dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the court determines that it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and McGore v. Wrigglesworth, 114 F.3d 601 (6th Cir. 1997). When the face of the complaint shows that an action is time barred, the case may be dismissed summarily upon screening. Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S.199, 215 (2007).

A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Section 1983 provides a federal forum for injured parties to seek a remedy for the deprivation of their civil liberties. 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 66, (1989). "To state a valid § 1983 claim, Plaintiff must establish that: (1) he was deprived of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, and (2) the deprivation was caused by a person acting under the color of state law."*fn2 Redding v. St. Reward, 241 F.3d 530, 532 (6th Cir. 2001) (quoting West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988)).

Because § 1983 does not provide a statute of limitations, federal courts borrow the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 275-80 (1985). Thus, in Kentucky § 1983 actions are limited by the one-year statute of limitations found in KY. REV. STAT. § 413.140(1)(a). Collard v. Ky. Bd. of Nursing, 896 F.2d 179, 182 (6th Cir. 1990). In Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384 (2007), the United States Supreme Court held that a Fourth Amendment claim "begins to run at the time the claimant becomes detained pursuant to legal process." Id. at 397.

Plaintiff's complaint indicates the search and his ensuing arrest took place on October 18, 2007. The statute of limitations on his Fourth Amendment claims expired a year later on October 18, 2008.*fn3 Thus, his complaint was filed over two years late.

B. State Law Claims*fn4

Plaintiff asserts state law claims of invasion of privacy,*fn5 intentional infliction of emotional distress,*fn6 and negligence. From a survey of federal case law, it appears that other courts have permitted similar claims to proceed. See, e.g., Conradt, 536 F. Supp. 2d at 395 (holding that plaintiff could maintain an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim on behalf of her brother's estate where she alleged that defendant's conduct in conjunction with the To Catch a Predator series caused her brother to commit suicide); see also Heather Berger, Hot Pursuit: the Media's Liability for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Through Newsgathering, 27 ...

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