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Edward Walker Dean v. Edward Walker

January 20, 2011

EDWARD WALKER DEAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EDWARD WALKER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Emmet G. Sullivan United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Pending before the Court is Defendant Mark Sypniewski's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rules 12(b)(2) and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Upon consideration of the motion, the response, the reply and surreply thereto, the applicable law, and for the following reasons, the Court concludes that it lacks personal jurisdiction over Defendant Sypniewski. At the request of plaintiff, however, the Court will exercise its discretion to transfer plaintiff's action against Defendant Sypniewski to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Edward Walker Dean brought this diversity action against Defendant Edward Walker, Defendant W Industries, and Defendant Sypniewski. In his complaint, plaintiff alleges (i) breach of contract, (ii) willful, malicious and wanton misconduct, and (iii) tortious interference with contract. See Compl. ¶¶ 8-18. With regards to Defendant Sypniewski, plaintiff alleges, among other things, that Sypniewski "knew that [plaintiff] had a Consulting Agreement with W [Industries]," "made threats with the intent of causing the termination of the Consulting Agreement between W [Industries] and [plaintiff]," and "in fact induced W [Industries] to breach its Consulting Agreement with [plaintiff] and interfered with the economic [sic] advantageous relationship between [plaintiff] and W [Industries]." Compl. ¶¶ 17, 18.

In response, Defendant Sypniewski filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over him "as his limited contacts with the District of Columbia have been undertaken solely at the direction of [his employer]," and that plaintiff fails to allege the necessary facts to state a claim for tortious interference with a contract. Def.'s Mot. at 1-2. This motion is now ripe for determination by the Court.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2)

A plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a factual basis for asserting personal jurisdiction over a defendant. See Crane v. N.Y. Zoological Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990). Bare allegations or conclusory statements are insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction; instead, the plaintiff "must allege specific facts connecting each defendant with the forum."

GTE New Media Servs., Inc. v. Ameritech Corp., 21 F. Supp. 2d 27, 36 (D.D.C. 1998). When determining whether personal jurisdiction exists over a defendant, the Court need not treat all of a plaintiff's allegations as true. Instead, the Court "may receive and weigh affidavits and any other relevant matter to assist it in determining the jurisdictional facts." United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F. Supp. 2d 116, 120 n.4 (D.D.C. 2000) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Any factual discrepancies with regard to the existence of personal jurisdiction, however, must be resolved in favor of the plaintiff. See Crane, 894 F.2d at 456.

B. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Browning v. Clinton, 292 F.3d 235, 242 (D.C. Cir. 2002). A complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). "'[W]hen ruling on a defendant's motion to dismiss, a judge must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint[,]'" Atherton v. D.C. Office of the Mayor, 567 F.3d 672, 681 (D.C. Cir. 2009) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)), and grant the plaintiff "the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged." Kowal v. MCI Commc'ns Corp., 16 F.3d 1271, 1276 (D.C. Cir. 1994). A court must not, however, "accept inferences drawn by plaintiffs if such inferences are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint. Nor must the court accept legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations." Id. In addition, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "[O]nly a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id.

III. ANALYSIS

This case arises under the Court's diversity jurisdiction. See Compl. ¶ 6 (asserting jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332). Accordingly, whether the Court has personal jurisdiction over Sypniewski is a function of District of Columbia law. Crane, 814 F.2d at 762. Because plaintiff does not allege that Sypniewski is a resident of the District of the Columbia, the Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over the defendant only if plaintiff had plead sufficient facts to satisfy (1) the District of Columbia long-arm statute, D.C. Code § 13-423,*fn1 and (2) constitutional requirements of due process.*fn2

In this case, plaintiff appears to base his argument that the long-arm statute confers personal jurisdiction over Sypniewski for his tortious interference claim on both §§ 13-423(a)(1) and (4): i.e., "transacting any business in the District of Columbia" and "causing tortious injury in the District of Columbia by an act or omission outside the District of Columbia." See Pl.'s Opp'n ¶¶ 11-12 (citing § 13-423(a)(1)); Pl.'s Opp'n ¶ 8 (asserting that "Sypniewski['s] acts in inducing the breach of Dean's Consulting ...


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