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Lattanzio v. Brunacini

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Lexington

July 13, 2018

JAMES LATTANZIO, Plaintiff,
v.
MAYME BRUNACINI, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Danny C. Reeves United States District Judge

         This matter is pending for consideration of Defendants Mayme Brunacini and La Mame Kentucky, LLC's motion for summary judgment [Record No. 118] The defendants assert that there are no material facts in dispute and they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Plaintiff James Lattanzio disagrees with the defendants' claim that material facts are undisputed. He contends that facts exits which allow him to take his claims to a jury. [Record No. 121] For the reasons explained below, the defendants' motion will be granted and this action will be dismissed.

         I.

         This case involves an ongoing legal battle between Lattanzio and Mayme Brunacini and La Mame Kentucky, LLC. At one time, Lattanzio leased farm land from Brunacini but claims that Brunacini “willfully breached the agreement and unlawfully deprived [him] of possession and value of the hay crop” he had previously seeded on January 31, 2015. [Record No. 60, ¶¶ 1-2] The hay crop at issue was later cultivated, in part, by Scott Mallory, a subsequent tenant. [Id. at ¶ 4] According to Lattanzio, the defendants then “went on a campaign to publically ‘smear' [him].” [Id. at ¶ 12] This alleged campaign is the basis for the remainder of the claims, and is the basis for a separate Scott Circuit Court proceeding in which the plaintiff has named others in the alleged conspiracy. In the state court proceeding, Lattanzio also raised claims for trespass and stalking, which he contends are the basis for Brunacini's breach of their lease agreement, and the partial foundation for an allegedly fictitious and defamatory news story. The state court action was dismissed on October 19, 2017. [See Record No. 47.]

         Lattanzio also claims damages for injuries allegedly caused by an October 1, 2015 news report aired by WLEX Communications, LLC (“WLEX”) on WLEX Channel 18 and a related report WLEX published on its website. [Record No. 60, ¶¶ 15, 20, 25] The story, entitled Comair Crash Victim's Farm At Center of Legal Battle, discusses the lawsuit brought by Lattanzio in the Scott Circuit Court. [Record No. 121-1, p. 33] Brunacini states the following in the news story that aired on WLEX: “I found out the house that was worth, that once worth a half a million dollars is worth zero balance right now. It's, It's completely destroyed.” [Record No. 118-1, p. 10 (notarized typewritten transcript of the news broadcast (mistakes in original))] The written news story quoted Brunacini as saying: “I found out the house that was once worth a half a million dollars is worth zero balance right now it is completely destroyed.” [Record No. 121-1, p. 33]

         II.

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine disputes regarding any material facts and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.p. 56(a); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 17');">477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Chao v. Hall Holding Co., 15');">285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). A dispute over a material fact is not “genuine” unless a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. That is, the determination must be “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986); see Harrison v. Ash, 539 F.3d 510, 516 (6th Cir. 2008).

         A party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating conclusively that no genuine issue of material fact exists. CenTra, Inc. v. Estrin, 538 F.3d 402, 412 (6th Cir. 2008). Once the moving party has met his burden of production, the nonmoving party must come forward with significant probative evidence to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Chao v. Hall Holding Co., 15');">285 F.3d 415, 424 (6th Cir. 2002). In deciding whether to grant summary judgment, the Court views all the facts and inferences drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986).

         III.

         The defendants claim they are entitled to summary judgment because Lattanzio's failure to reply to discovery requests results in no evidence to support his claim. [Record No. 118, p. 5] Additionally, they contend that the affidavit and documents attached to his response to the summary judgment motion, “are void of specific facts, contradict his discovery responses, primarily address complaints against other people, and do not address the claims against Brunacini.” [Record No. 123]

         A. Lattanzio's Failure to Reply to Discovery Requests

         The defendants argue that Lattanzio has failed to respond to the request for admissions, interrogatories, and requests for production of documents served on March 30, 2018. Rule 36(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in part:

A party may serve on any other party a written request to admit, for purposes of the pending action only, the truth of any matters within the scope of Rule 26(b)(1) relating to (i) facts, the application of law to fact, or opinions about either; and (ii) the genuineness of any described documents.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a). Further, Rule 36(a) provides that “[a] matter is admitted unless, within 30 days after being served, the party to whom the request is directed serves on the requesting party a written answer or objection addressed to the matter and signed by the party or its attorney.” Id.

         Under Rule 36(b), a request for admissions which is not responded to within the applicable time period is “conclusively established unless the court, on motion, permits the admission to be withdrawn or amended.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 36(b). Matters deemed admitted under Rule 36(a) can serve as a basis for granting a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. p. 56(c)(1)(A); First Nat'l Bank Co. v. Ins. Co. of N. Am., 606 F.2d 760, 766 (7th Cir. 1979); Simms v. Harrodsburg, 06-CV-104, 2007 WL 2792174, at *1 (E.D. Ky. Sept. 21, 2007); Merritt v. Int'l Ass'n of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, 06-CV-14342, 2008 WL 5784439, at *18 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 22, 2008).

         The defendants ask the Court to deem the matters set forth in its requests for admissions as admitted due to Lattanzio's failure to respond to those requests. Lattanzio contends in response that the defendants inquired about unanswered discovery on May 1, 2018 and, at that time, he indicated he had not received the requests. [Record No. 121, p. 1] He alleges the defendants then resent the requests on May 11, 2018, and he was in the process of answering the requests when the defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on May 25, 2018. [Id.] Lattanzio next claims that he “answered and returned the discovery requests which directly contradict ...


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