Ex-Greenberg Traurig partner's defamation suit against blogger is 'replete with unnecessary commentary,' judge says
TikTok screenshots show social media influencer Robert Harvey and a listing of cases in which lawyer Allan A. Kassenoff was the lead counsel for Samsung, along with the tags @Samsung and @SamsungUS. (Images from Kassenoff’s Sept. 5, 2023, lawsuit)
A social media influencer has won dismissal of a defamation lawsuit filed by a former Greenberg Traurig partner over the posting of marital videos said to depict the lawyer as an abusive spouse and father.
U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell II of the Northern District of Florida tossed the amended suit filed by lawyer Allan A. Kassenoff, with leave to file a more succinct complaint, in a Feb. 8 opinion.
Wetherell said the suit was “far longer than it needs [to] be,” and it contained “numerous allegations that appear to have little to nothing to do with the legal claims asserted.” Many of the allegations “are replete with unnecessary commentary,” the judge said.
The 110-page amended complaint appears “intended for a broader public audience,” Wetherell said. “For example, the first six pages of the amended complaint contain a slanted narrative about the ‘nature of the action,’ which reads more like a magazine article than allegations in a legal pleading.”
Kassenoff first sued social media influencer Robert Harvey in September 2023, alleging defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference with a business relationship and cyberstalking.
Harvey had posted videos that showed Kassenoff yelling, telling his then-wife that he hates her and regrets ever meeting her, calling her a “fat, old loser” and declaring that he won’t take their “spoiled” daughter to school or activities. Kassenoff “forcibly resigned” from Greenberg Traurig after Harvey encouraged his followers to bombard the law firm with calls for Kassenoff’s ouster.
Kassenoff had been awarded sole custody of the children and alleged in his suit that his wife was an unfit parent who played favorites with the children. She had claimed that Kassenoff was awarded custody because of a corrupt court system.
After losing visitation rights, Kassenoff’s wife had posted on Facebook that she was terminally ill and was traveling to Switzerland to die by medically assisted suicide. She also linked to a public Dropbox that included videos. Kassenoff had claimed that his wife was lying about the diagnosis.
Wetherell said the suit violated the federal rule requiring a “short and plain statement” of claims.
“Here, the amended complaint is anything but ‘short and plain,’” Wetherell said.
In a footnote, Wetherell said he had not seen a complaint anywhere near 110 pages long in nearly 30 years as an attorney and a judge. The time period included “the past five years on the federal bench presiding over far more complex and factually extensive cases than this.”
“The court understands that plaintiff feels that he has been wronged by defendant (and, if the allegations in the amended complaint are true, he may very well have been), but the amended complaint is not the place for plaintiff to tell his entire side of the story or to air salacious details about Ms. Kassenoff from the matrimonial proceeding,” Wetherell said. “Thus, the amended complaint needs to be repled to eliminate the extensive extraneous factual allegations.”
Wetherell also said two of Kassenoff’s causes of action should be dismissed for failure to state a claim. One was his emotional distress claim filed on behalf of his minor children. The other was his allegation of interference with client relationships.
Law360 published statements from Kassenoff and from Harvey’s lawyer. Both claimed to be pleased by the decision.
Kassenoff said he will soon file a second amended complaint, and he looks forward “to holding Mr. Harvey accountable for his actions.”
He also said Wetherell “rejected virtually all of the defendant’s arguments on the merits,” and the decision “is a near complete victory for me.”
Harvey’s lawyer, Jonathan Marc Davidoff, said Kassenoff’s allegations are treated as true for the motion to dismiss stage of the suit.
But if Kassenoff refiles the suit, he “cannot evade the factual evidence presented in the videos and reports, which exonerate Mr. Harvey, who reported on them and the divorce proceedings,” Davidoff said.