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Tall v. Comcast of Potomac

August 9, 2010

ABDOULAYE TALL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMCAST OF POTOMAC, LLC, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Abdoulaye Tall, proceeding pro se, brings this suit against Comcast of Potomac, LLC, and the Credit Protection Association.*fn1 He alleges that he purchased cable services from Comcast of Potomac while living in Maryland in 2005, Compl. ¶ 8, and that a subsequent dispute with the company led it to report to third parties that he had failed to pay his cable bill, thereby ruining his credit, Compl. ¶ 18. He brings claims for violations of two federal statutes -- the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692 et seq., and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. -- as well as for common law defamation, invasion of privacy, and breach of contract.

Before the Court is Comcast of Potomac's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. After the parties briefed that motion, the Court determined that they had failed to consider two factual issues potentially affecting the Court's jurisdiction over Comcast of Potomac. The Court therefore propounded interrogatories regarding those issues. See June 17, 2010 Order [Docket Entry 19], at 5-6. Although Tall had requested jurisdictional discovery in his opposition to Comcast of Potomac's motion to dismiss, the Court concluded that the parties' interrogatory responses might obviate the need for such discovery. The parties have now responded to the Court's inquiries by affidavit and, for the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Comcast's motion and deny Tall's request for further jurisdictional discovery.

BACKGROUND

In 2005, Tall contracted with Comcast of Potomac to obtain cable TV and internet service to his Montgomery County, Maryland apartment. Compl. ¶ 8. He alleges that in November of that year he noticed "a disruption in his cable service," Compl. ¶ 9, which Comcast of Potomac "failed to restore" despite numerous phone calls, Compl. ¶¶ 10-11. He contends that he suffered this disruption even though he overpaid his cable bill by approximately $14, Compl. ¶ 9, and "sent receipt of payment to Comcast by fax, as directed by Comcast's agents," Compl. ¶ 11. Tall's efforts were apparently fruitless, as "Comcast's agent came to plaintiff's apartment and picked up their equipments [sic]. The agent signed a discharge confirming have recuperated the equipments [sic]." Compl. ¶ 12.

Thereafter, "defendants Comcast and Credit Protection Association claimed that plaintiff owed defendant Comcast" approximately $153 for unpaid service, unreturned equipment, and late fees and taxes. Compl. ¶ 13. Tall alleges that he "promptly disputed defendants claim [sic], by phone and in writing," Compl. ¶ 14, and that although Comcast of Potomac and the Credit Protection Agency "failed to verify [the] disputed claim," they nevertheless pursued collection actions, Compl. ¶ 15. He asserts, to this end, that they "furnished a derogatory account to Equifax, a credit reporting agency." Compl. ¶ 16. As a result, Tall contends that he was unable to obtain a loan "to pay for the medical treatment of a family member," had his credit limit reduced, and "was also requested to pay a higher interest rate on his credit card accounts."

Compl. ¶ 18.

Tall states that he has continued to "dispute[ the charges] with Equifax, Comcast and [the] Credit Protection Association at several instances," the latest in September 2009. Compl. ¶¶ 17, 19-20. According to him, Equifax responded to his latest inquiry by indicating that "[t]h[e] creditor is currently reporting a zero balance for this account. If you have additional questions about this item please contact Credit Protection." Compl. ¶ 21. He alleges that neither the Credit Protection Association nor Comcast has responded to his latest queries, and he therefore brings this action.

ANALYSIS

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), plaintiffs bear the burden of establishing a court's personal jurisdiction over a defendant. "[P]laintiffs are not limited to evidence that meets the standards of admissibility required by the district court. Rather, they may rest their argument on their pleadings, bolstered by such affidavits and other written materials as they can otherwise obtain." Mwani v. bin Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 8 (D.C. Cir. 2005). Nevertheless, plaintiffs must allege "specific facts upon which personal jurisdiction may be based," Blumenthal v. Drudge, 992 F. Supp. 44, 53 (D.D.C. 1998), and they cannot rely on conclusory allegations, see Elemary v. Philipp Holzmann A.G., 533 F. Supp. 2d 116, 121 (D.D.C. 2008).*fn2

The Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, such as Comcast of Potomac, either by finding general jurisdiction over the party, or by finding specific jurisdiction based on "acts of a defendant that touch and concern the forum." Steinberg v. Int'l Criminal Police Org., 672 F.2d 927, 928 (D.C. Cir. 1981); accord Kopff v. Battaglia, 425 F. Supp. 2d 76, 81 (D.D.C. 2006). Here, Tall contends only that this Court has specific jurisdiction over Comcast of Potomac.

To establish specific jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant, Tall must plead facts that

(1) bring the case within the scope of the District of Columbia's long-arm statute, D.C. Code § 13-423, and (2) satisfy the constitutional requirements of due process. See GTE New Media Servs. Inc. v. Bell South Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347 (D.C. Cir. 2000); United States v. Ferrara, 54 F.3d 825, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1995). The District's long-arm statute states that courts may exercise ...


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