United States District Court, D. Kansas
SNYDER INSURANCE SERVICES, INC. and RAYMOND F. SNYDER, Plaintiffs,
KULIN-SOHN INSURANCE AGENCY, INC. and MARK R. SOHN, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
D. Crabtree United States District Judge
sports and fitness activities play a substantial role in the
development of American youth. Often, the gyms and fitness
centers who host these activities elect to buy insurance
coverage to protect themselves from liability. The parties in
this case-plaintiff Snyder Insurance Services, Inc. and
defendant Kulin-Sohn Insurance Agency, Inc.-both provide
insurance brokerage services to amateur sports venues and
children's fitness centers. But there's some bad
blood between these two. Snyder Insurance and plaintiff
Raymond Snyder-an agent and Snyder Insurance's owner and
President-allege that Kulin-Sohn Insurance and defendant Mark
Sohn-Kulin-Sohn Insurance's owner and also an agent-have
made defamatory remarks about plaintiffs and caused
plaintiffs to lose some of their clients.
before the court is defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc.
33). In it, defendants argue that the Complaint fails to allege a
tortious interference with prospective business relations
claim sufficiently. For reasons explained below, the court
denies the motion.
defendants' motion relies on Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6), the court must accept the well-pleaded
facts in the Complaint as true. Brokers' Choice of
Am., Inc. v. NBC Universal, Inc., 757 F.3d 1125, 1136
(10th Cir. 2014). It also must construe the alleged facts in
the light most favorable to plaintiff. Id.
explained above, Snyder Insurance and Kulin-Sohn Insurance
are insurance brokers who insure amateur sports and
children's fitness centers. Mr. Snyder is the owner,
President, and an agent for Snyder Insurance. Mr. Sohn owns
Kulin-Sohn Insurance and acts as an agent for that company.
The market for insuring amateur sports and children's
fitness centers is a relatively small, niche segment of the
larger insurance market.
2016, defendants told several of plaintiffs'
clients-including Emerald City Gymnastics, All-Star
Gymnastics, and Ninja Zone-that plaintiffs had lied to them,
misled them about their insurance coverage, and misled other
gyms about their insurance coverage. Defendants also said
that plaintiffs had lied to plaintiffs' insured and
insurance carriers. Snyder Insurance expected Emerald City,
All-Star, and Ninja Zone to continue to renew their policies
through Snyder Insurance and possibly refer new clients
there. Particularly, Snyder Insurance expected Ninja Zone to
refer new clients because it franchises its program
curriculum to other gyms who might need the same type of
insurance. Mr. Snyder expected to receive commissions and
broker's fees for anticipated renewals by Emerald City,
All-Star, and Ninja Zone. But he allegedly lost these
earnings when they secured insurance through someone else.
made these statements despite knowing they were false.
Indeed, defendants had made similar statements in 2004 and
2008. When defendants made the false statements in 2004 and
2008, plaintiffs sent defendants cease and desist letters,
cautioning defendants to stop making false statements to
now have filed this lawsuit against defendants. In the newly
amended Complaint, plaintiffs bring two claims: defamation
(Count I) and tortious interference with prospective business
relations and advantage (Count II). Previously, the court
ruled that the Complaint sufficiently alleged a defamation
claim. Doc. 18 at 5. But, in the same Order, the court held
that the prior Complaint required more specific factual
allegations to plead a sufficient claim for tortious
interference with prospective business relations
(“TIBR”). Id. at 9. On March I, 2018,
plaintiffs filed an amended Complaint. Two weeks later,
defendants filed this motion challenging the sufficiency of
the allegations supporting the TIBR claim.
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the court
accepts all facts pleaded by the non-moving party as true and
draws any reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving
party. Brokers' Choice of Am., 757 F.3d at 1136.
“To survive a motion to dismiss [under Rule 12(b)(6)],
a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted
as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “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.”
Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
“Under this standard, ‘the complaint must give
the court reason to believe that this plaintiff has
a reasonable likelihood of mustering factual support for
these claims.'” Carter v. United
States, 667 F.Supp.2d 1259, 1262 (D. Kan. 2009) (quoting
Ridge at Red Hawk, L.L.C. v. Schneider, 493 F.3d
1174, 1177 (10th Cir. 2007) (emphasis in original)).
this Rule “does not require ‘detailed factual
allegations, '” it demands more than “[a]
pleading that offers ‘labels and conclusions' or
‘a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action'” which, as the Supreme Court has explained,
simply “will not do.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). This is so
because the court need not “ʻaccept as true a
legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557 (quoting Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).
explained above, defendants' current motion solely
challenges the sufficiency of the allegations supporting the
Complaint's TIBR claim. In Kansas,  TIBR requires
pleading and proof of: “(1) the existence of a business
relationship or expectancy with the probability of future
economic benefit to the plaintiff; (2) knowledge of the
relationship or expectancy by the defendant; (3) that, except
for the conduct of the defendant, plaintiff was reasonably
certain to have continued the relationship or realized the
expectancy; (4) intentional misconduct by defendant; and (5)
damages suffered by plaintiff as a direct or proximate cause