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Helmer v. Doletskaya

October 27, 2003

JOHN HELMER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ELENA DOLETSKAYA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiff, John Helmer ("Helmer"), brings this action for fraud and breach of contract against defendant, Elena Doletskaya ("Doletskaya"). Before this court is Doletskaya's motion to dismiss [#5]. Upon consideration of Doletskaya's motion, the opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the court concludes that the motion must be granted.

I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Helmer is a citizen of the United States and owns a home in the District of Columbia (the"District"). Compl. ¶ 2. From 1990 to the present, however, he has worked as an independent business journalist in Moscow, Russia, where he lives. Id. ¶ 4. Doletskaya is a citizen of the Russian Federation. Id. ¶ 3

In 1993, Helmer and Doletskaya began a personal relationship and, in July of that year, Doletskaya visited Helmer in Washington, D.C. Id. ¶ 6. During this visit, Helmer asserts that he and Doletskaya entered into two contracts. First, they discussed the possibility of Helmer purchasing an apartment in Moscow, negotiations for which had already begun in Moscow. Id. ¶ 7. Doletskaya allegedly represented that she would assist Helmer in the transaction because she was able to read and understand Russian while Helmer could not. Id. ¶ 8. Helmer alleges that Doletskaya represented that she would arrange for the apartment to be placed in his name upon his payment of the apartment's sale price. Id. ¶ 9. On November 19, 1993, Doletskaya assisted Helmer with the purchase of an apartment in Moscow, Russia. Id. ¶ 12. Helmer allegedly paid for the apartment, and the parties both moved into the apartment in January 1994. Id. ¶¶ 13-15. In 1996, Helmer and Doletskaya's"personal relationship" ended, but they continued to live in the apartment together. Id. ¶ 21. In 2000, Helmer learned that the Moscow apartment was titled in Doletskaya's name. Id. ¶ 33. Doletskaya has refused to transfer the apartment to Helmer. Id. ¶ 34.

The second contract Helmer and Doletskaya allegedly entered into during Doletskaya's visit called for Helmer to support Doletskaya while she was attempting to establish her career. Id. ¶ 10. After her career was established, Doletskaya would repay Helmer. Id. ¶ 11. Helmer supported Doletskaya financially from 1993 to 2000 and allowed her to use his American Express and Mastercard credit cards. Id. ¶¶ 17-18. During this time, Doletskaya incurred over $57,000 in personal expenses on Helmer's American Express and Mastercard credit cards, Id. ¶ 20, and Helmer agreed to finance Doletskaya's move to a cottage outside of Moscow by loaning her over $11,000 to pay for the cottage and other expenses. Id. ¶ 22. In 1998, Doletskaya was appointed the editor-in-chief of"Vogue Russia," and allegedly became financially self-sufficient as of 2001. Id. ¶ 23. Contrary to her alleged promises, however, Doletskaya has refused to repay the $68,000 in personal expenses that Helmer allegedly provided her during their relationship. Id. ¶ 35.

Helmer further alleges that during the parties' personal relationship, Doletskaya concealed numerous aspects of her past, and that if Helmer had known of Doletskaya's personal history, he would not have entered into the two contracts. Id. ¶¶ 27-31, 37. Helmer learned of Doletskaya's personal history in 2000 after their relationship terminated, and after Doletskaya refused to transfer the apartment and repay the loans. Id. ¶ 36. This suit followed.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard for Motion to Dismiss

Doletskaya seeks a dismissal of this case on several grounds only one of which merit significant discussion. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), Doletskaya moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.*fn1

In general, the jurisdictional reach of a federal court is coextensive with a state court of general jurisdiction in the state where the federal court is located. Crane v. Carr, 814 F.2d 758, 762 (D.C. Cir. 1987). To determine whether this court is able to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the court must engage in a two-part inquiry. First, the court must examine whether jurisdiction is permitted under the District of Columbia's long-arm statute. GTE New Media Serv. Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000). Second, if the long arm statute provides a basis for exercising jurisdiction, the court must then determine whether exercising jurisdiction over the defendant would offend the Constitution's guarantee of due process. Id. Constitutional due process requirements are satisfied when a defendant that has"certain minimum contacts with [the forum] such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940)). A defendant has minimum contacts with a forum when it has"purposefully directed [its] activities at residents of the forum, and the litigation results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to those activities." Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472-73 (1985) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); United States v. Phillip Morris Inc., 116 F. Supp. 2d 116, 129 (D.D.C. 2000).

The plaintiff bears the burden of proof of establishing personal jurisdiction. Jacobsen v. Oliver, 201 F. Supp. 2d 93, 104 (D.D.C. 2002); Dooley v. United Techs. Corp., 786 F. Supp 65, 70 (D.D.C. 1992); Lott v. Burning Tree Club, Inc., 516 F. Supp 913, 918 (D.D.C. 1980). The plaintiff must make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction by alleging specific facts that demonstrate purposeful activity by the defendant in the District of Columbia invoking the benefits and protections of its laws. First Chicago Int'l v. United Exch. Co., 836 F.2d 1375, 1378-79 (D.C. Cir. 1988); Jacobsen, 201 F. Supp. 2d at 104; Novak-Canzeri v. Saud, 864 F. Supp. 203, 205 (D.D.C. 1994). When personal jurisdiction is challenged, the plaintiff"cannot rest on bare allegations or conclusory statements and must allege specific facts connecting each defendant with the forum." GTE New Media Serv., Inc. v. Ameritech Corp., 21 F. Supp. 2d 27, 36 (D.D.C. 1998).

The District of Columbia's long-arm statute provides, in pertinent part:

(a) A District of Columbia court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a claim ...


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