On 12/15/2017 RAVEN STARRE filed a Personal Injury - Assault/Battery/Defamation lawsuit against BROOKE MARCH. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is TERESA A. BEAUDET. The case status is Pending - Other Pending.
Pending - Other Pending
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
TERESA A. BEAUDET
MLG AUTOMOTIVE LAW APLC
MICHAELS JONATHAN A.
SAFARIAN HARRY A.
KALLAS SERENA J.
STONE JASON M.
2/1/2018: ANSWER TO PLAINTIFF'S UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT BY MIKA SHOEMAKER AND CRAIG SHOEMAKER
2/5/2018: NOTICE OF HEARING ON DEFENDANT, STEVEN CERVINE'S, DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT FOR LIBEL PER SE AND EXTORTION.
2/5/2018: NOTICE OF HEARING ON DEFENDANT, DEBRA ARTURA'S, DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT FOR LIBEL PER SE AND EXTORTION.
2/5/2018: NOTICE OF HEARING ON DEFENDANT, SCOTT CERVINE'S, DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT FOR LIBEL PER SE AND EXTORTION
2/8/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS
2/8/2018: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS
4/6/2018: NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
7/30/2018: Minute Order
8/29/2018: Proof of Service
9/25/2018: NOTICE OF REJECTION APPLICATION AND ORDER FOR PUBLICATION
9/27/2018: NOTICE OF RULING AT CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE
11/2/2018: Motion to Quash
2/27/2019: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)
5/8/2019: Proof of Service by Mail
at 09:30 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Jury Trial - Held - ContinuedRead MoreRead Less
at 09:30 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Final Status Conference - Held - ContinuedRead MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Hearing on Ex Parte Application (for order to continue trial date and all related dates) - Held - Advanced and HeardRead MoreRead Less
Notice of Ruling; Filed by Raven Starre (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
at 08:30 AM in Department 50, Teresa A. Beaudet, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Quash (subpoena and to seek a protective order for defendants Brooke March, Nancy Johnson, Amy Sheely, Beth Bayard, Debra Artura, Steven Cervine and Scott Cervine's facebook correspondence and accounts and sanctions of $4,140.00 (consolidated motion ).) - Not Held - Taken Off Calendar by CourtRead MoreRead Less
Minute Order ( (Hearing on Motion to Quash subpoena and to seek a protective ...)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
Order (re Consolidated Motion to Quash)Read MoreRead Less
Order (re Ex Parte Application to continue trial); Filed by Raven Starre (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Ex Parte Application (Ex Parte Application); Filed by Raven Starre (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by Raven Starre (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
ANSWER TO PLAINTIFF'S UNVERIFIED COMPLAINT BY MIKA SHOEMAKER AND CRAIG SHOEMAKERRead MoreRead Less
Answer; Filed by Mika Shoemaker (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
NEW NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCERead MoreRead Less
Notice of Case Management Conference; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCERead MoreRead Less
Complaint; Filed by Raven Starre (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
SUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
COMPLAINT FOR: 1. LIBEL PER SE; AND 2. EXTORTION.Read MoreRead Less
Points and Authorities; Filed by Defendant/RespondentRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC687258 Hearing Date: February 13, 2020 Dept: 50
brooke march, et al.
February 13, 2020
[TENTATIVE] ORDER RE:
DEFENDANTS BROOKE MARCH, SCOTT CERVINE, MIKA SHOEMAKER, NANCY JOHNSON, AMY SHEELY, BETH BAYARD, CRAIG SHOEMAKER, DEBRA ARTURA, AND STEVEN CERVINE’S JOINT MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, SUMMARY ADJUDICATION
Plaintiff Raven Starre (“Starre”) filed this action on December 15, 2017. The operative Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) was filed on March 1, 2019 against various defendants. The SAC asserts causes of action for (1) libel per se, (2) cyber stalking – violation of Civil Code § 1708.7, (3) intentional infliction of emotional distress, (4) conspiracy to commit libel per se, (5) aiding and abetting libel per se, (6) conspiracy to commit intentional infliction of emotional distress; and (7) aiding and abetting intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Defendants Brooke March, Scott Cervine, Mika Shoemaker, Nancy Johnson, Amy Sheely, Beth Bayard, Craig Shoemaker, Debra Artura, and Steven Cervine have moved for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication of each of the causes of action. Starre opposes.
The Court notes that Defendants Mika Shoemaker and Craig Shoemaker were dismissed with prejudice on January 7, 2020. Therefore, the remaining moving defendants are Brooke March, Scott Cervine, Nancy Johnson, Amy Sheely, Beth Bayard, Debra Artura, and Steven Cervine (collectively, “Defendants”).
The Court rules on Starre’s evidentiary objections as follows:
Objection 1: sustained
Objections 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, and 9: sustained as to “despite gathering hours of footage” and overruled as to the remainder
Objection 5: overruled
Objection 10: sustained as to the first sentence and overruled as to the remainder
Objection 11: overruled
The Court rules on Defendants’ evidentiary objections as follows:
Objections 2, 14, 22, 31, and 41: overruled
Objection 5: sustained as to “unlawful” and overruled as to the remainder
Objections 7, 8, 9, 10, 13, 18, 19, 20, 23, 26, 28 (only regarding the reference to “the Defendants;” overruled as to the remainder), 32, and 35: sustained
“[A] motion for summary judgment shall be granted if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” (Code Civ. Proc., section 437c, subd. (c).) The moving party bears the initial burden of production to make a prima facie showing that there are no triable issues of material fact. (Aguilar v. Atlantic Richfield Co. (2001) 25 Cal.4th 826, 850.) If the moving party carries this burden, the burden shifts to the opposing party to make a prima facie showing that a triable issue of material fact exists. (Ibid. .) Courts “liberally construe the evidence in support of the party opposing summary judgment and resolve doubts concerning the evidence in favor of that party.” (Dore v. Arnold Worldwide, Inc. (2006) 39 Cal.4th 384, 389.)
When a defendant seeks summary judgment, he/she must show either (1) that one or more elements of the cause of action cannot be established; or (2) that there is a complete defense to that cause of action. (Code Civ. Proc., section 437c, subd. (p)(2).)
In the SAC, Starre alleges that beginning in 2015, Defendants conspired together to emotionally and financially ruin Starre by creating a website called RavenStarreScam.com (the “Website”). (SAC, ¶ 19.) The Website published various false and damaging statements about Starre, including that Starre was a pedophile and that Starre had sexually abused her son. (SAC, ¶ 20.) The publications on the Website continued after this lawsuit was originally filed. (SAC,
¶ 23.) These publications form the basis for all of Starre’s causes of action against Defendants. (SAC, ¶¶ 27, 44, 53, 62, 70, 79, 88.) Starre also alleges that Defendants sent her written communications demanding that she pay them money under the threat of filing false criminal complaints against her. (SAC, ¶ 19.) These allegations, along with the allegations relating to the Website, form the basis for Starre’s cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress. (SAC, ¶ 53.)
“Libel is a form of defamation effected in writing.” (John Doe 2 v. Superior Court (2016) 1 Cal.App.5th 1300, 1312.) “Libel is a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.” (Civ. Code, section 45.) “The elements of a defamation claim are (1) a publication that is (2) false, (3) defamatory, (4) unprivileged, and (5) has a natural tendency to injure or causes special damage.” (Wong v. Jing (2010) 189 Cal.App.4th 1354, 1369.)
Defendants contend that the libel cause of action is without merit because Starre cannot show that Defendants published the statements at issue, namely, the statements made on the Website. In support, Defendants proffer evidence that Defendant Peter Kirkpatrick (“Kirkpatrick”) was and is solely responsible for the Website and its contents. (Defendants’ Undisputed Material Fact (“UMF”) 17-18.) Kirkpatrick attests to the fact that the information on the Website was done at his sole discretion, that he did not consult with or conspire with anyone regarding the information on the Website, and that he is solely responsible for all of the information on the Website. (Kirkpatrick Decl., ¶¶ 2-3.) Moreover, Defendants themselves disavow any involvement in the creation of the Website, the maintenance of the Website, and the content on the Website (including the defamatory content). (UMF 19-20.)
In opposition, Starre offers essentially two pieces of evidence: her own declaration and the screenshots of comments made by various Defendants in a Facebook group discussing the group’s dissatisfaction with Starre. (Response to UMF 17-21.) The Court has already found much of Starre’s testimony inadmissible, as set forth in the Court’s rulings on Defendants’ evidentiary objections. With respect to the Facebook comments, the Court does not find that the comments raise a triable issue of fact. First, to dispute the fact that Kirkpatrick purchased the Website domain name and created the Website, Starre offers a comment by Defendant Nancy Johnson (“Johnson”) in the Facebook group wherein she suggests that a website be created to “warn others away” from Starre and to “use the tools of search engine optimization to assure that anyone searching for info on [Starre] finds that site.” (Jones Decl., ¶ 7, Ex. 16.) The Court does not find that Starre’s evidence creates a dispute as to the fact that Kirkpatrick created the Website. Next, to dispute that Kirkpatrick had complete control over the Website and its contents, Starre points to comments made by Kirkpatrick, Johnson, and Defendant Brooke March (“March”) in the Facebook group. (Response to UMF 17.) However, those comments also do not create a dispute as to the fact that Kirkpatrick controlled the Website and was responsible for its contents. March states that Johnson’s idea for a website alerting people to Starre’s alleged scam is a “[g]reat idea.” (Jones Decl., ¶ 7, Ex. 16.) Later, Kirkpatrick confirms that he created the Website in response to March’s question about the status of the Website. (Jones Decl., ¶ 7, Ex. 16.) Johnson adds that searching for Starre’s name on Google results in “top hits [that] now scream scam artist.” (Jones Decl., ¶ 7, Ex. 16.) March then encourages others to post their stories about Starre to the Website. (Jones Decl., ¶ 7, Ex. 16.) None of these comments support a reasonable inference that anyone other than Kirkpatrick created the Website, controlled the Website, or had any say in the information published on the Website. Moreover, none of these comments support a reasonable inference that any of the Defendants intended to or encouraged others to post false stories about Starre to the Website.
Defendants present evidence that they never made any statements regarding Starre being a pedophile or sexually molesting her son. (UMF 21.) Starre disputes this fact, but the only evidence cited in support is the fact that Defendant Amy Sheely (“Sheely”) testified to lodging a complaint with Child Protective Services about Starre, which resulted in an investigation. (Response to UMF 21.) However, Sheely’s testimony also makes clear that her complaint to CPS was based on her observations that Starre was “neglectful” because Starre kept her son in rooms from early in the morning to late at night. (Jones Decl., ¶ 5, Ex. 14, p. 68:2-10.) Sheely specifically testified that she never observed sexually inappropriate behavior between Starre and her son and never learned of any sexually inappropriate contact between Starre and her son. (Jones Decl., ¶ 5, Ex. 14, p. 68:19-24.) Therefore, the Court does not find that Starre has raised a triable issue as to whether Defendants published any statements about Starre regarding either pedophilia or child sexual abuse.
Starre also cites to evidence that Defendants created flyers defaming Starre’s business (by referring to it as a “scam”), that Defendants attempted to interfere with Starre’s business relationship with a third party, and that Defendants created a YouTube video about said “scam”. (Response to UMF 12.) However, “[t]he pleadings delimit the issues to be considered on a motion for summary judgment.” (Laabs v. City of Victorville (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 1242, 1253.) “Accordingly, the burden of a defendant moving for summary judgment only requires that he or she negate plaintiff’s theories of liability as alleged in the complaint….” (Hutton v. Fidelity National Title Co. (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 486, 493 (emphasis in original).) The theory of liability for libel alleged in the SAC is based on statements that Starre is a pedophile and that Starre sexually abused her child. There are no allegations that Defendants defamed Starre by referring to her business as a “scam.” Therefore, the Court does not find that Starre has raised a triable issue of fact with this evidence.
Next, Defendants contend that because the cause of action for libel has no merit, the conspiracy to commit libel cause of action similarly has no merit. Defendants argue that in order to recover on a conspiracy theory against certain defendants, a plaintiff must prove that the underlying tort has been committed by the same defendants. It is true that “[a] civil conspiracy, however atrocious, does not per se give rise to a cause of action unless a civil wrong has been committed resulting in damage.” (Applied Equipment Corp. v. Litton Saudi Arabia Ltd. (1994) 7 Cal.4th 503, 511.) But nothing in Applied Equipment suggests that the civil wrong must have been committed by the defendants accused of conspiracy. “By its nature, tort liability arising from conspiracy presupposes that the coconspirator is legally capable of committing the tort, i.e., that he or she owes a duty to plaintiff recognized by law and is potentially subject to liability for breach of that duty.” (Ibid.) “[A]lleging a conspiracy fastens liability on those who agree to the plan to commit the wrong as well as those who actually carry it out.” (Stueve Bros. Farms, LLC v. Berger Kahn (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 303, 323.) “The elements of a civil conspiracy are the formation and operation of the conspiracy and damage resulting to plaintiff from an act done in furtherance of the common design.” (Ibid.) Here, Defendants have not established that an underlying wrong has not been committed. Nevertheless, Defendants have presented evidence to show that there was no formation or operation of a conspiracy because Kirkpatrick did not consult or conspire with the other Defendants about the posts at issue on the Website. (UMF 18-20.) And, as noted above, the Court does not find that Starre has demonstrated that a triable issue exists as to those facts.
Similarly, Defendants argue that the cause of action for aiding and abetting libel is without merit because Starre cannot show that Defendants gave any assistance or encouragement to Kirkpatrick in making the posts at issue on the Website or that Defendants had any duty to control Kirkpatrick’s actions with respect to the Website. “Liability may . . . be imposed on one who aids and abets the commission of an intentional tort if the person . . . knows the other’s conduct constitutes a breach of duty and gives substantial assistance or encouragement to the other to so act ... .” (Schulz v. Neovi Data Corp. (2007) 152 Cal.App.4th 86, 93.) “Mere knowledge that a tort is being committed and the failure to prevent it does not constitute aiding and abetting.” (Fiol v. Doellstedt (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 1318, 1326.) Based on the evidence presented, the Court finds that Defendants have met their burden of showing that the cause of action for aiding and abetting libel has no merit. The Court further finds that Starre has failed to meet her burden of showing that a triable issue of fact exists as to this cause of action.
Defendants contend that the cyber stalking cause of action is without merit because Starre cannot establish that Defendants “engaged in a pattern of conduct the intent of which was to follow, alarm, place under surveillance, or harass” Starre. (Civ. Code, § 1708.7, subd. (a)(1).) “Pattern of conduct” means “conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose.” (Civ. Code, § 1708.7, subd. (b)(1).) Here, Starre alleges that the posts on the Website constitute the “pattern of conduct” that is intended to harass her. (SAC, ¶ 44.) But Defendants point to the evidence (discussed above) showing that they had no involvement in the creation of the Website or the posts made on the Website.
Starre argues that Defendants’ written demands for money also constitute a “pattern of conduct” to alarm or harass her. Starre submits evidence that in March 2015, March, Sheely, Johnson, and Defendant Beth Bayard (“Bayard”) each sent Starre an email demanding payment of money, under the express threat of accusing her of a crime and subjecting her to criminal prosecution. (Starre Decl., ¶ 6, Exs. 3-7.)
First, Starre’s evidence shows that each woman sent her one email demanding payment. Thus, the evidence of these emails does not raise a triable issue that each of the Defendants engaged in “conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however, short, evidencing a continuity of purpose.” Second, the Court notes that the allegations relating to the demands for money are not set forth in support of Starre’s cyber stalking cause of action. (SAC, ¶¶ 43-50.) Therefore, the Court finds that Starre has failed to show that a triable issue of fact exists as to the cause of action for cyber stalking.
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (“IIED”)
To prevail on an IIED claim, a plaintiff must prove: “(1) extreme and outrageous conduct by the defendant with the intention of causing, or reckless disregard of the probability of causing, emotional distress; (2) the plaintiff’s suffering severe or extreme emotional distress; and (3) actual and proximate causation of the emotional distress by the defendant’s outrageous conduct.” (Hughes v. Pair (2009) 46 Cal.4th 1035, 1050.)
Defendants contend that the IIED cause of action has no merit because Starre cannot demonstrate that Defendants engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct—either by creating/maintaining the Website or by demanding money from Starre. First, as to the Website, the Court has already found that Defendants have met their burden of showing that they were not involved in the creation or maintenance of the Website, so they could not have engaged in conduct to create a website to make accusations of child molestation or to make death threats against Starre. (See SAC, ¶ 53.) As noted above, Starre has failed to meet her burden of showing that a triable issue of fact exists as to the creation of the Website and the posts contained on the Website. Second, as to the demands for money, Defendants argue that they were merely seeking to recover a debt owed to them. Therefore, Starre cannot show that Defendants intended to cause or recklessly disregarded the probability of causing Starre emotional distress. Defendants also argue that the conduct of emailing Starre to demand repayment does not rise to the level of extreme and outrageous conduct that goes beyond all reasonable bounds of decency. “[L]iability [for IIED] does not extend to mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty oppressions, or other trivialities, but only to conduct so extreme and outrageous as to go beyond all possible bo[u]nds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.” (Alcorn v. Anbro Eng’g, Inc. (1970) 2 Cal.3d 493, 499, fn. 5 [internal quotations omitted].)
As noted by Starre in opposition, while a court makes the initial determination “whether a defendant’s conduct may reasonably be regarded as so extreme and outrageous as to permit recovery[,] [w]here reasonable men can differ, the jury determines whether the conduct has been extreme and outrageous to result in liability.” (Plotnik v. Meihaus (2012) 208 Cal.App.4th 1590, 1614.) Here, the Court finds that there is no reasonable basis for finding that sending one email demanding payment for a failed multi-level marketing scheme is so extreme and outrageous as to permit recovery.
As far as the causes of action for conspiracy to commit intentional infliction of emotional distress and aiding and abetting intentional infliction of emotional distress, it is directed only to the creation and maintenance of the Website. (SAC, ¶ 62.) Starre alleges that Defendants “agreed with Kirkpatrick and intended that [Starre] be defamed by Kirkpatrick’s continual postings on the Website.” (SAC, ¶¶ 65.) Starre alleges that Defendants “cooperated with Kirkpatrick in enabling him to make the further defamatory postings” and “gave Kirkpatrick substantial assistance and encouragement in making the continual postings on the Website.” (SAC, ¶¶ 65, 73.) But as noted above, the Court finds that Defendants have met their burden of proof of showing that they did not have any involvement in the Website or the posts that were contained in the Website. Defendants have presented evidence that Kirkpatrick had sole control over what was posted on the Website and that he did not consult with Defendants about his posts. Therefore, the Court finds that Defendants have met their burden of proof of showing that the conspiracy to commit IIED and aiding and abetting IIED causes of action have no merit. The Court further finds that Starre has not raised a triable issue of fact thereto.
Based on the foregoing, the Court grants Defendants’ motion for summary judgment in its entirety.
The Court orders Defendants to file and serve a proposed judgment of dismissal within 10 days of the date of this Order.
Defendants are ordered to give notice of this Order.
DATED: February 13, 2020
Hon. Teresa A. Beaudet
Judge, Los Angeles Superior Court
 See Code Civ. Proc., § 437c, subd. (e) [“If a party is otherwise entitled to summary judgment pursuant to this section, summary judgment shall not be denied on grounds of credibility or for want of cross-examination of witnesses furnishing affidavits or declarations in support of the summary judgment . . . .”]).
 The Court notes that Starre inserts objections to each of the facts set forth in Defendants’ separate statement, which the Court disregards as improper. The Court also notes that Starre improperly incorporates facts by reference. (See Response to UMF 18.) CRC rule 3.1350(f)(2) requires that a disputed response to a material fact “must state, on the right side of the page directly opposite the fact in dispute, the nature of the dispute and describe the evidence that supports the position that the fact is controverted.” CRC rule 3.1350(f)(2) also requires citation to evidence that includes reference to the exhibit, title, page, and line numbers.
 The Court notes that Starre’s response to UMF 13, which sets forth this information, actually cites to Johnson’s deposition transcript, but the portions of the deposition transcript highlighted do not support the fact asserted by Starre in her separate statement.
 The gist of the underlying dispute between Starre and the Defendants is that Starre recruited Defendants to be a part of a multi-level marketing scheme and corresponding reality show that did not pan out as advertised.