United States District Court, District of Columbia
CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER United States
that it does business in “Washington, D.C.” might
be useful shorthand for a California company with an office
in Northern Virginia. It is not enough, however, to establish
personal jurisdiction in a case arising from an alleged tort
committed by one of the company’s employees in
Virginia. Plaintiff Pamela Duarte, a District of Columbia
resident, alleges that she was injured when a truck
rear-ended the car she was driving in Richmond, Virginia. She
has filed this negligence action against the driver of the
truck, a California resident, and his employer, an
engineering and construction company headquartered in San
Diego. Both Defendants move to dismiss the suit for want of
personal jurisdiction and improper venue in the District of
Columbia. Because Duarte has failed to plead sufficient facts
to establish personal jurisdiction, the Court will grant
Defendants’ motions on that basis.
about May 4, 2013, Pamela Duarte rented a 2012 Chevrolet
Cruze from a Budget Rent-a-Car in the District of Columbia.
Second Mot. Leave Amend Pl.’s First Am. Compl. Ex. 1
(“Compl.”) ¶ 9, ECF No. 15-1. While stopped on
the shoulder of Route 64 in Richmond, Virginia,
Duarte’s rental was rear-ended by a truck driven by
Defendant Michael Edward Nolan. Id. ¶ 10.
Duarte alleges that at time of the collision, Nolan was an
employee of Helix Electric, Inc. “working on a project
for his company in the State of Virginia.” Id.
¶ 19. Helix is a national corporation in the business of
electrical engineering and construction with its principal
place of business in San Diego, California and offices in
Hawaii, Nevada, Virginia, and elsewhere in California.
Id. ¶ 7. Duarte alleges that even though Helix
does not maintain an office in the District of Columbia, it
“engages in a persistent course of business”
here. Id. Duarte is a citizen of the District of
Columbia; Nolan is a citizen of California. Id.
commenced this action on August 27, 2015, and filed her First
Amended Complaint on December 11, 2015. She has since moved
twice for leave to amend her First Amended Complaint. In her
most recent filing, she alleges that Nolan, acting within the
scope of his employment with Helix, negligently collided with
her vehicle, causing her to incur “serious
injuries” as well as economic and medical expenses.
Id. ¶¶ 20-21, 23. In addition,
Duarte’s rental car sustained significant damage
totaling around $18, 000. Id. ¶ 22. She seeks
$1, 000, 000 in damages.
Defendants have moved to dismiss Duarte’s First Amended
Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2) and 12(b)(3), arguing that the Court lacks personal
jurisdiction over them and that venue is improper in the
District of Columbia under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2).
Duarte contests these points and additionally requests that
she be allowed to engage in jurisdictional discovery to
confirm the propriety of exercising personal jurisdiction
over both Defendants.
Standard of Review
plaintiff “bear[s] the burden of establishing personal
jurisdiction over the defendants.” Clay v. Blue
Hackle N. Am. L.L.C., 907 F.Supp.2d 85, 87 (D.D.C.
2012). To establish personal jurisdiction, a plaintiff
“‘must allege specific acts connecting [the]
defendant with the forum’ and ‘cannot rely on
conclusory allegations.’” Id. (quoting
Second Amend. Found. v. U.S. Conference of Mayors,
274 F.3d 521, 524 (D.C. Cir. 2001); Purdue Research
Found. v. Sanofi-Synthelabo, S.A., 332 F.Supp.2d 63, 66
(D.D.C. 2004)). Moreover, a plaintiff “cannot aggregate
factual allegations concerning multiple defendants in order
to demonstrate personal jurisdiction over any individual
defendant.” Atlantigas Corp. v. Nisource,
Inc., 290 F.Supp.2d 34, 42 (D.D.C. 2003).
overcome a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, “a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Moldauer v.
Constellation Brands, Inc., 87 F.Supp.3d 148, 152-53
(D.D.C. 2015) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.
662, 678 (2009)) (internal quotation marks omitted). In
deciding whether to grant a 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for
lack of personal jurisdiction, a court “may consider
relevant material outside of the pleadings.”
Id. at 152. Any “factual discrepancies
appearing in the record must be resolved in favor of the
plaintiff.” Crane v. N.Y. Zoological
Soc’y, 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990).
contend that the Court should dismiss Duarte’s
Complaint because she has failed to meet her burden of
establishing personal jurisdiction over each of them. The
Court agrees and will grant the motions to
Legal Standard for Personal Jurisdiction
forms of personal jurisdiction empower a court to exercise
coercive authority over a non-resident defendant: general and
specific jurisdiction. General jurisdiction arises when the
“non-resident defendant maintains sufficiently
systematic and continuous contacts with the forum state,
regardless of whether those contacts gave rise to the claim
in the particular suit.” App Dynamic ehf v.
Vignisson, 87 F.Supp.3d 322, 326 (D.D.C. 2015) (citing
Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall,
466 U.S. 408, 414-15 (1984)). Section 13-422 of the D.C. Code
enables a District of Columbia court to exercise general
jurisdiction “over a person domiciled in, organized
under the laws of, or maintaining his or its principal place
of business in, the District of Columbia as to any claim for
relief.” When a corporate defendant is neither
incorporated in nor has its principal place of business in
the forum state, “a court has general jurisdiction over
the defendant only if its ‘affiliations with the State
in which suit is brought are so constant and pervasive as to
render [it] essentially at home in the forum
state.’” Moldauer, 87 F.Supp.3d at 154
(quoting Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 751
(2014)). “The corporation’s contacts with the
State must constitute ‘continuous corporate
operations’ that are ‘so substantial and of such
a nature as to justify suit against it on causes of action
arising from dealings entirely distinct from those
activities.’” Id. (quoting
Int’l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310,
specific jurisdiction exists over a non-resident defendant
where the claim arises “out of or [is] related to the
defendant’s contacts with the forum.”
Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414 n.8. “A
plaintiff seeking to establish specific jurisdiction over a
non-resident must establish that specific jurisdiction
comports with the forum’s long-arm statute, D.C. Code
§ 13-423(a), ...