United States District Court, D. Columbia
SHANA FREEDMAN, on behalf of herself and all others similarly situated, Plaintiff
SUNTRUST BANKS, INC. and SUNTRUST MORTGAGE, INC., Defendants
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
SHANA FREEDMAN, on behalf of herself and all others similarly
situated, Plaintiff: Jamie L. Crook, PRO HAC VICE, RELMAN,
DANE & COLFAX, Washington, DC; Sasha Samberg-Champion, PRO
HAC VICE, RELMAN & DANE PLLC, Washignton, DC; John Peter
Relman, RELMAN, DANE & COLFAX, PLLC, Washington, DC.
SUNTRUST BANKS, INC., SUNTRUST MORTGAGE, INC., Defendants:
Syed M. Reza, LEAD ATTORNEY, TROUTMAN SANDERS LLP, Tysons
Corner, VA; David N. Anthony, PRO HAC VICE, TROUTMAN SANDERS
LLP, Richmond, VA.
KOLLAR-KOTELLY, United States District Judge.
before the Court is Defendants'  Motion to Dismiss
For Lack of Personal Jurisdiction and Plaintiff's 
Motion for Leave to File Limited Surreply. Upon consideration
of the pleadings, the relevant legal authorities, and
the record as a whole, the Court DENIES Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Leave
to File Limited Surreply. For the reasons described herein,
the Court finds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over
Defendants and that jurisdictional discovery is not warranted
but that it is in the interest of justice to transfer the
matter to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of
Florida pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) and 28 U.S.C.
purposes of the motion before the Court, the Court accepts as
true the well-pleaded allegations in Plaintiff's
Complaint. The Court does " not accept as true, however,
the plaintiff's legal conclusions or inferences that are
unsupported by the facts alleged." Ralls Corp. v.
Comm. on Foreign Inv. in U.S., 758 F.3d 296, 315, 411
U.S.App.D.C. 105 (D.C. Cir. 2014). The Court recites the
principal facts pertaining to the issues raised in the
pending motions, reserving further presentation of the facts
for the discussion of the individual issues below.
Shana Freedman (" Plaintiff" ) is a Florida
resident who unsuccessfully sought a home loan from SunTrust
Mortgage (" SunTrust" ) in the fall of 2012. Compl.
¶ 3, 17, 40. Plaintiff, whose income consists of
long-term Social Security Disability Insurance ("
SSDI" ), was ultimately unable to submit a loan
application for processing due to a SunTrust policy requiring
her to provide firm assurances that her disability benefits
would continue. Id. ¶ 37. Plaintiff first
experienced difficulties obtaining a home loan from SunTrust
in October 2012 when she attempted to complete an online loan
application that did not permit her to indicate income in the
form of SSDI payments. Id. ¶ 26. Plaintiff
contacted a SunTrust loan officer to seek assistance with the
application, explaining that she was disabled and that her
income consisted of SSDI payments. Id.
¶ 26. Plaintiff also faxed the loan officer her most
recent SSDI award letter, which had no expiration date for
her long-term disability benefits. Id. ¶ 31.
Following consultation with SunTrust's underwriting
department, the loan officer informed Plaintiff that SunTrust
had a policy requiring loan applicants whose income consisted
of long-term disability benefits to submit documentation
" from a Doctor or from Social Security" indicating
that " the income is going to continue."
Id. ¶ 33. Plaintiff could not provide the
requested documentation from the Social Security
Administration because that agency does not guarantee future
benefits. Id. ¶ 35. Because Plaintiff was
unable to obtain the requested documentation, SunTrust
refused to process her loan application. Id. ¶
37. When Plaintiff contacted SunTrust one month later, the
loan officer confirmed that SunTrust's
income-verification policy continued. Id. In
accordance with this policy, SunTrust again refused to
process Plaintiff's application. Id. ¶ 37.
On September 16, 2014, Plaintiff filed this lawsuit as a
putative class action on behalf of herself and other
similarly situated borrowers whose income derives from
long-term disability assistance. Id. ¶ 41.
Plaintiff alleges that SunTrust's policy of requesting
sensitive medical information regarding an applicant's
disability violates the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. §
3601 et seq., and the Equal Credit Opportunity Act
(" ECOA" ), 15 U.S.C. § 1691 et seq.
Id. ¶ 42-43.
defendants in this action are SunTrust Banks Inc. and
SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. (" Defendants" ). SunTrust
Banks, Inc. is an American bank holding company. Compl.
¶ 12. It is a Georgia corporation with its principal
place of business at 303 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta,
Georgia, 30308. Defs.' Mot. Exhibit A. SunTrust
Banks, Inc. is one of the largest financial services
organization in the United States, operating 1,700 banks
throughout the United States, including in the District of
Columbia. Compl. ¶ 12. SunTrust Banks, Inc. operates a
number of retail bank branches in the District of Columbia
and maintains a mortgage office in the District. Id.
Defs.' Mot. Exhibit B. SunTrust Bank, Inc.'s website
advertises that SunTrust Bank and its affiliates offer retail
and mortgage banking services " primarily in Florida,
Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee,
Virginia, and the District of Columbia." Pl.'s
Opp'n Exhibit A.
Mortgage, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Defendant
SunTrust Banks, Inc.. Id. ¶ 13. SunTrust
Mortgage, Inc. is a Virginia Corporation with its principal
place of business at 901 Semmes Avenue, Richmond, Virginia
23224. Defs.' Mot. Exhibit B. SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.
operates loans in SunTrust markets throughout the South and
mid-Atlantic regions of the United States, including the
District of Columbia. Compl. ¶ 13. It services loans in
approximately 48 states and the District of Columbia.
Id. In 2013, SunTrust Mortgage was ranked number
eight in mortgage originations in the United States.
Id. Plaintiff alleges that SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.
" is and at all relevant
times has been a subsidiary of, controlled by, a mere
instrumentality of, and an agent of SunTrust Banks such that
SunTrust Banks is liable for its acts alleged herein."
Id. ¶ 13.
February 17, 2015, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss for
Lack of Personal Jurisdiction. On April 2, 2015, Plaintiff
filed her Opposition to Defendant's Motion, requesting in
the alternative that the Court transfer the case to the
Middle District of Florida. After Defendants filed their
Reply brief on April 27, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion on
May 6, 2015 for leave to file a surreply to bolster arguments
in support of the transfer request previously made in her
Opposition brief. Defendants' Reply brief did nothing
more than respond to Plaintiff's arguments in support of
her transfer request. Because Defendants did not raise any
new arguments in their Reply brief, the Court denies
Plaintiff's motion for leave to file a surreply.
Crummey v. Soc. Sec. Admin., 794 F.Supp.2d 46, 63
(D.D.C. 2011) aff'd, No. 11-5231, 2012 WL 556317
(D.C. Cir. Feb. 6, 2012) (" [A] surreply is not a
vehicle for rehashing arguments that have already been raised
and briefed by the parties." ).
personal jurisdiction is challenged under Rule 12(b)(2), the
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, 282 U.S.App.D.C. 295 (D.C. Cir. 1990). At this
stage, the plaintiff " can satisfy that burden with a
prima facie showing." Mwani v. bin
Laden, 417 F.3d 1, 7, 368 U.S.App.D.C. 1 (D.C. Cir.
2005) (quoting Edmond v. United States Postal Serv. Gen.
Counsel, 949 F.2d 415, 424, 292 U.S.App.D.C. 240 (D.C.
Cir. 1991)) (emphasis in original). To do so, the plaintiff
cannot rest on bare allegations or conclusory statements but
" must allege specific acts connecting [the] defendant
with the forum." Second Amendment Found. v.
U.S. Conference of Mayors, 274 F.3d 521, 524, 348
U.S.App.D.C. 238 (D.C. Cir. 2001) (internal quotation marks
omitted). " To make such a showing, the plaintiff is not
required to adduce evidence that meets the standards of
admissibility reserved for summary judgment and trial[;
]" but rather, the plaintiff may " rest her
arguments on the pleadings, 'bolstered by such affidavits
and other written materials as [she] can otherwise
obtain.'" Urban Inst. v. FINCON Servs., 681
F.Supp.2d 41, 44 (D.D.C. 2010) (quoting Mwani, 417
F.3d at 7).
order to obtain jurisdictional discovery a " plaintiff
must have at least a good faith belief that such discovery
will enable it to show that the court has personal
jurisdiction over the defendant." Caribbean Broad.
Sys. Ltd. v. Cable & Wireless PLC, 148 F.3d 1080, 1090,
331 U.S.App.D.C. 226 (D.C. Cir. 1998); see also
Exponential Biotherapies, Inc. v. Houthoff Buruma
N.V., 638 F.Supp.2d 1, 11 (D.D.C. 2009) (holding that
[j]urisdictional discovery ... is justified only if the
plaintiff reasonably 'demonstrates that it can supplement
its jurisdictional allegations through discovery.'"
) (quoting Kopff v. Battaglia, 425 F.Supp.2d 76, 89
(D.D.C. 2006)). " Mere conjecture or speculation"
is not enough to justify jurisdictional discovery. FC
Investment Group LC v. IFX Markets Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087,
1094, 381 U.S.App.D.C. 383 (D.C. Cir. 2008).
to 28 U.S.C. § 1406, courts have authority to transfer a
case " laying venue in the wrong division or
district" to " any district or division in which it
could have been brought," if such a transfer would be
" in the interest of justice." The decision whether
a transfer under Section 1406 is in the " interest of
justice" rests " within the sound discretion of the
district court." Naartex Consulting Corp. v.
Watt, 722 F.2d 779, 789, 232 U.S.App.D.C. 293 (D.C. Cir.
1983). Transfer is appropriate " when procedural
obstacles [such as lack of personal jurisdiction, improper
venue, and statute-of-limitations bars] impede an expeditious
and orderly adjudication on the merits." Sinclair v.
Kleindienst, 711 F.2d 291, 293-94, 229 U.S.App.D.C. 13
(D.C. Cir. 1983). Generally, the interests of justice require
transferring a case to the appropriate judicial district
rather than dismissing it. See Goldlawr, Inc. v.
Heiman, 369 U.S. 463, 466-67, 82 S.Ct. 913, 8 L.Ed.2d 39
also have authority under 28 U.S.C. § 1631 to transfer a
case filed in the wrong jurisdiction, " if it is in the
interest of justice" to do so. When a case is
transferred pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1631, it "
proceed[s] as if it had been filed in . . . the court to
which it is transferred on the date upon which it was
actually filed in ... the court from which it is
transferred." Id. " There are three
elements to a section 1631 transfer: (1) there must be a lack
of jurisdiction in the district court; (2) the transfer must
be in the interest of justice; and (3) the transfer can be
made only to a court in which the action could have been
brought at the time it was filed or noticed."
Fasolyak v. The Cradle Soc'y, Inc., No. 06-1126,
2007 WL 2071644, at *11 (D.D.C. July 19, 2007) (quoting
Ukiah Adventist Hosp. v. FTC, 981 F.2d 543, 549, 299
U.S.App.D.C. 54 (D.C. Cir. 1992)). As the party requesting
transfer, Plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the
elements of a § 1631 transfer have been met.
See Osage Tribe of Indians of Okla. v.
U.S., No. 04-283, 2005 WL 578171, at *2 (D.D.C. Mar. 9,
move to dismiss this action under Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of
personal jurisdiction, arguing that it has insufficient
contacts with the District of Columbia to support
jurisdiction. Plaintiff opposes Defendants' motion and
requests in the alternative that the Court permit
jurisdictional discovery or transfer the case to the U.S.
District Court for the Middle District of Florida pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1406, or in the alternative, to 28 U.S.C.
Court finds that there is not jurisdiction over Defendants
and that jurisdictional discovery is not warranted. The Court
further finds that it is in the interest of justice to
transfer the matter to the U.S. District Court for the Middle
District of Florida, which is a competent jurisdiction to
hear Plaintiff's claims, pursuant to either 28 U.S.C.
§ 1406 or 28 U.S.C. § 1631.
The Court Lacks Personal Jurisdiction over
moves to dismiss this action under Rule 12(b)(2) for lack of
personal jurisdiction, arguing that they have insufficient
contacts with the District of Columbia to support
jurisdiction. See Defs.' Mot. at 7-9. Plaintiff
argues that the District of Columbia has general personal
jurisdiction over Defendants because of their "
continuous and systematic affiliations with the forum
state." Pl.'s Mot. at 9. Plaintiff is " not
aware of facts indicating that her claims arose in the
District of Columbia, and she therefore does not attempt to
establish specific jurisdiction." Pl.'s Mot. at 1.
The Court's Analysis is Governed by the Supreme