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Hoffman v. Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority

July 11, 2003

GERALDINE HOFFMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FAIRFAX COUNTY REDEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING AUTHORITY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

Document Nos.: 2, 4, 5

MEMORANDUM OPINION TRANSFERRING THE ACTION TO THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA

I. INTRODUCTION

This toxic-torts action comes before the court on various motions to dismiss filed by the defendants. Specifically, the court addresses defendant Fairfax County's motion to dismiss for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and denies the motion because subject-matter jurisdiction exists in the form of diversity jurisdiction. The court moves on to consider the defendants' motions to dismiss for improper venue pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3). Because venue is improper in this district under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(a), the court transfers the action to its sister court in the Eastern District of Virginia pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a).

II. BACKGROUND

The plaintiff, Geraldine Hoffman, rented an apartment located in Falls Church, Virginia, managed by defendant Quantum Real Estate Management, LLC ("defendant Quantum"). In her complaint filed on December 31, 2002, the plaintiff alleges that she paid rent for this apartment to defendants Fairfax County and Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority ("defendant FCRHA"). Compl. at 2. In addition, the plaintiff claims that she has suffered injuries due to the defendants' negligent use and storage of toxic chemicals in her apartment building and seeks $400,000.00 in damages. Id. at 3-4.

The defendants each filed separate motions to dismiss. Defendant Quantum filed a Rule 12(b)(3) motion to dismiss for improper venue. Def. Quantum's Mot. at 1. Defendant FCRHA argues both lack of personal jurisdiction and improper venue under Rule 12(b)(2) and (3), respectively. Def. FCRHA's Mot. at 1. Defendant Fairfax County seeks dismissal for lack of federal subject-matter jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), (2), (3), and (6), respectively. Def. Fairfax County's Mot. at 1.

In response to each of these motions, the plaintiff filed oppositions simply requesting that the court transfer the case to the Eastern District of Virginia. Pl.'s Opp'n to Def. Quantum's Mot. at 1; Pl.'s Opp'n to Def. Fairfax County's Mot. at 1; Pl.'s Opp'n to Def. FCRHA's Mot. at 1. All of the parties then jointly filed a praecipe on June 25, 2003, noting for the record that defendant Quantum has members residing in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Praecipe at 1. The court now addresses the pending motions to dismiss.

III. ANALYSIS

As noted, the defendants bring various Rule 12(b) motions, requiring the court to determine the order in which it must address these challenges. For this reason, the court must briefly clear away some legal underbrush before reaching the main issues.

The court first resolves defendant Fairfax County's motion for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction before addressing the motions asserting improper venue. Kier Bros. Inv., v. White, 943 F. Supp. 1, 4 (D.D.C. 1996) (Sullivan, J.) (explaining that a court must address a subjectmatter jurisdiction challenge before the question of venue). As for defendants Fairfax County's and FCRHA's motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the court need not address these motions because the defendants' venue challenges are dispositive of the action in this court.*fn1 Leroy v. Great W. United Corp., 443 U.S. 173, 180 (1979) (noting that although personal jurisdiction often is addressed before venue, "when there is a sound prudential justification for doing so, [ ] a court may reverse the normal order of considering personal jurisdiction and venue").

For the same reason, the court declines to address defendant Fairfax County's Rule 12(b)(6) motion because, as discussed later in this opinion, the court elects to transfer the action to the Eastern District of Virginia and therefore believes that the transferee court will be better situated to resolve that motion. Hafstad v. Hornick, 1987 WL 10871, at *3 (D.D.C. May 6, 1987) (Flannery, J.) (deciding that motions to transfer are properly heard before substantive motions to dismiss, reasoning that"it is fitting to leave all decisions on the merits to [the transferee] district court, rather than to tie that court's hands with substantive decisions made in this jurisdiction").

A. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

1. Legal Standard for a Motion to Dismiss Pursuant ...


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