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United States Fourth Circuit

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Johnson v. American Towers, 13-1872

Plaintiff, a prison guard, was shot multiple times in his home in an attack ordered by an inmate using a contraband cell phone. Plaintiff brought suit against defendant cellular phone service providers and owners of cell phone towers, alleging that defendants are liable for plaintiff's injuries because they were aware that their services facilitated the illegal use of cellphones by prison inmates and did nothing to curb that use. Judgment dismissing plaintiff's claims on the merits is affirmed, where: 1) the Communications Act clearly preempts plaintiff's state-law tort claim against defendant Farmers as a matter of law, and consequently, plaintiff does not have a "glimmer of hope" of succeeding in state court on his claim against Farmers; 2) the parties are in complete diversity, and consequently, defendant had jurisdiction over the remaining defendants; 3) the Communication Act's express language preempts plaintiff's claims; 4) plaintiff's claim are barred by conflict preemption; and 5) plaintiff's claims are implausible, and as currently drafted, the complaint resembles a prohibited fishing expedition rather than a properly pleaded complaint.

Appellate Information

  • Decided 03/25/2015
  • Published 03/25/2015


  • Floyd


  • United States Fourth Circuit


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