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Winston & Strawn LLP v. Law Firm of Eaves

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

June 11, 2014

WINSTON & STRAWN LLP, Plaintiff,
v.
THE LAW FIRM OF JOHN ARTHUR EAVES, Defendant

Page 69

For WINSTON & STRAWN LLP, Plaintiff: Erin D. Hendrixson, Paul J. Maloney, LEAD ATTORNEYS, CARR MALONEY PC, Washington, DC.

For LAW FIRM OF JOHN ARTHUR EAVES, Defendant: John Arthur Eaves, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, THE LAW FIRM OF JOHN ARTHUR EAVES, Jackson, MS.

Page 70

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Winston & Strawn LLP (" W& S" ) brings this action against defendant

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Law Firm of John Arthur Eaves (" Eaves Law Firm" ).[1] W& S claims that Eaves Law Firm breached a contract between the two parties by failing to pay for legal services provided by W& S. John Arthur Eaves, Jr. (" Eaves" ) has filed a motion to dismiss for (1) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and (2) ineffective service of process under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5).[2] For the reasons discussed below, the Court will deny Eaves's motion.

BACKGROUND

W& S alleges that in January 2010, Eaves, on behalf of Eaves Law Firm, retained W& S to provide legal services. See Compl. ¶ 6. Under the terms of the agreement, Eaves Law Firm agreed to pay W& S a monthly rate of $12,000. See Pl.'s Opp'n to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss (" Pl.'s Opp'n" ) Ex. 1 [ECF No. 9-1] at 12-15. Nine months later, alleges W& S, Eaves again entered into an agreement with W& S on behalf of Eaves Law Firm by adjusting the monthly rate to $18,000. See id. ¶ 9. W& S continued to provide legal services until November 2011, when it stopped because of Eaves Law Firm's purported failure to pay its fees in full.

W& S then filed a complaint against Eaves Law Firm for breach of contract, demanding unpaid legal fees amounting to $279,400.63. Eaves has now moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Eaves Law Firm does not exist and that W& S's complaint fails to adequately plead a claim for breach of contract.

STANDARDS OF REVIEW

a) Motion to Dismiss for Ineffective Service of Process

Whether service was proper is a jurisdictional issue: " federal courts lack the power to assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant unless the procedural requirements of effective service of process are satisfied." Mann v. Castiel, 681 F.3d 368, 372, 401 U.S. App.D.C. 37 (D.C. Cir. 2012). Proper service of process " is not some mindless technicality." Friedman v. Estate of Presser, 929 F.2d 1151, 1156 (6th Cir. 1991) (quoting Del Raine v. Carlson, 826 F.2d 698, 704 (7th Cir. 1987)). Instead, the requirement stems from the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which requires that defendants receive adequate notice of the proceedings against them. See Dusenbery v. United States, 534 U.S. 161, 167, 122 S.Ct. 694, 151 L.Ed.2d 597 (2002). " When a defendant moves to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(5), the plaintiff has the burden of establishing the validity of service of process." Freedom Watch, Inc. v. Org. of Petroleum Exporting Countries, 288 F.R.D. 230, 231 (D.D.C. 2013). To meet this burden, the plaintiff " must demonstrate that the procedure employed satisfied the requirements of the relevant portions of Rule 4 and any other applicable provision of law." Light v. Wolf, 816 F.2d 746, 751, 259 U.S. App.D.C. 442 (D.C. Cir. 1987).

Generally, if " matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). But " a court may consider material outside of the pleadings in ruling on a motion to dismiss for lack of venue, personal jurisdiction, or

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subject-matter jurisdiction" without converting the motion into a Rule 56 motion. Artis v. Greenspan, 223 F.Supp.2d 149, 152 (D.D.C. 2002). In other words, on questions of jurisdiction, " plaintiffs 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 ...


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