United States District Court, District of Columbia
SANDRA FOOTE, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of Lester Foote, Plaintiff,
JANE E. WILLIAMS, Defendant.
B. WALTON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
plaintiff, Sandra Foote, individually and as personal
representative of the estate of her late husband, Lester
Foote, brings this civil action against the defendant, Jane
Williams, asserting claims of negligence and negligent
misrepresentation. See generally Amended Complaint
in Negligence (“Am. Compl.”). Specifically, the
plaintiff alleges that the defendant, a Primerica Life
Insurance Company (“Primerica”) insurance agent,
negligently failed to add the plaintiff as a beneficiary to
Lester Foote's life insurance policy, and misrepresented
to Lester Foote and the plaintiff that she had done so.
See id. ¶¶ 35-52. Currently before the
Court is the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Amended
Complaint (“Def.'s Mot.”), which seeks
dismissal of the Amended Complaint on the grounds that this
Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the defendant, and
that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted. See generally Def.'s Mot.
Upon careful consideration of the parties' submissions,
Court concludes for the following reasons that it must grant
the defendant's motion and dismiss the Amended Complaint
because the Court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over
plaintiff alleges the following in her Amended Complaint: In
2002, Lester Foote completed an application for a Primerica
life insurance policy, see Am. Compl. ¶ 12, at
the defendant's home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
see Def.'s Mot., Exhibit (“Ex.”) D
(Declaration of Jane E. Williams (“Williams
Decl.”) ¶ 12. The defendant is a Primerica life
insurance agent and Lester Foote's cousin. Am. Compl.
¶¶ 7, 10. In the policy, Lester Foote designated
six beneficiaries, including his god-daughter, “for $1,
300, 000 of the $1, 500, 000 amount of the term life
insurance policy for which he applied.” Id.
¶ 13. Primerica issued the policy on May 19, 2002.
See id. ¶ 15; see also id., Ex. 3
Lester Foote married the plaintiff on March 31, 2010,
id. ¶ 17, he sought to add the plaintiff as a
beneficiary and remove all other beneficiaries except his
god-daughter from the life insurance policy, id.
¶¶ 19, 21. He “contacted [the defendant] to
prepare the necessary paperwork to effectuate his desired
change in beneficiaries, ” id. ¶ 20, and
completed a policy change application at the defendant's
Philadelphia home, “in which he listed [the plaintiff]
and [his god-daughter] as the Principal Beneficiaries,
” see Def.'s Mot., Ex. D (Williams Decl.)
¶ 17; see also Am. Compl., Ex. 4 (Policy Change
Application (“Policy Change Appl.”)). After the
defendant submitted the policy change application to
Primerica, “Primerica advised [the defendant] that it
had received the Policy Change Application, but requested
clarification as to the nature of the change being requested,
” id. ¶ 23; see also id., Ex. 5
(Policy Change Inquiry); however, the defendant “never
provided a written response to that inquiry, ”
id. ¶ 24.
2011, the defendant visited her aunt, who is Lester
Foote's mother, in the District of Columbia, and Lester
Foote and the plaintiff were present during the visit.
Id. ¶ 25. While there, Lester Foote asked the
defendant: “‘Did you take care of the change of
beneficiary?' [to which the defendant] responded
affirmatively, stating that she had ‘taken care of
it.'” Id. In February 2013, the defendant
again visited Lester Foote's mother's home to attend
her funeral and, while there, “Lester Foote stated to
[the defendant], ‘Take care of my family' in the
presence of [the plaintiff] and their child. [The defendant]
responded by stating, ‘You don't have to
worry.'” Id. ¶ 26.
Foote passed away on December 26, 2013. Id. ¶
29. Following his death, the defendant visited the plaintiff
at the plaintiff's home in the District of Columbia,
where she “advised [the plaintiff] that she
‘would be getting a lot of money soon.'”
Id. ¶ 30. However, after the plaintiff later made
a claim for her entitlement as a beneficiary of Lester
Foote's Primerica policy, id. ¶ 31,
Primerica “brought an action for interpleader to
determine the respective rights of the [original
beneficiaries] to the proceeds of the Policy in the United
States District Court for the District of Maryland, ”
id. ¶ 32. On March 21, 2016, that court ruled
that “because Lester Foote had failed to obtain written
waivers from the original . . . [b]eneficiaries . . . as
required by the terms of the contract, [the plaintiff],
individually, had no legal right to any portion of the . . .
insurance proceeds.” Id. ¶ 34.
plaintiff filed her original Complaint in this action on
December 8, 2016, in the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia, alleging “a single count of negligence
against Jane E. Williams arising from her alleged conduct .
. . with regard to a life insurance policy issued to Lester
Foote.” See Notice of Removal of Civil Action
from the Superior Court of the District of Columbia ¶ 1.
The defendant removed the action to this Court on December
30, 2016, see id. at 4, and filed a motion to
dismiss the complaint on January 13, 2017, see
Defendant Jane Williams' Motion to Dismiss at 1 (Jan. 13,
2017), ECF No. 7. The plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint
in this Court on February 3, 2017, asserting a claim for
negligence as well as a claim for negligent
misrepresentation. See Am. Compl. at 6, 9,
Specifically, the plaintiff argues that the defendant
“had a duty to make reasonable efforts to perform [ ]
service[s] for her client, ” id. ¶ 37,
and breached this duty by failing to take the necessary steps
to fulfill Lester Foote's request to add the plaintiff as
a beneficiary to his life insurance policy, see id.
¶ 41. Furthermore, the plaintiff alleges that the
defendant “negligently represented to Lester Foote on
two separate occasions . . . that she had taken the requisite
actions to make [the plaintiff], individually, a beneficiary
of his life insurance policy, in replacement of all of the
original beneficiaries other than his god-daughter,
‘MBL.'” Id. ¶ 47. The defendant
filed her motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint on February
17, 2017, see Def.'s Mot. at 3, arguing, among
other things, that the plaintiff has not met her burden of
establishing that this Court has personal jurisdiction over
the defendant because “the only conduct that [the]
[p]laintiff claims occurred in the District of Columbia upon
which jurisdiction could even remotely be based were . . .
statements that [the defendant] allegedly made in response to
inquiries made by Mr. Foote.” Def.'s Mem. at 2.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
defendant moves to dismiss a case for lack of personal
jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2), a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing a
factual basis for the court's exercise of personal
jurisdiction over the defendant. Crane v. N.Y. Zoological
Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990); see
also First Chi. Int'l v. United Exch. Co., 836 F.2d
1375, 1378 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (“[A] plaintiff must make a
prima facie showing of the pertinent jurisdictional
facts.” (citations omitted)). Conclusory statements do
not satisfy this burden. See GTE New Media Servs., Inc.
v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1349 (D.C. Cir. 2000)
(citing First Chi., 836 F.2d at 1378-79). Instead,
there must be specific allegations connecting the defendant
to the forum. See, e.g., Second Amendment Found.
v. U.S. Conference of Mayors, 274 F.3d 521, 524 (D.C.
Cir. 2001). Because the Court is permitted to “consider
material outside of the pleadings in ruling on a motion to
dismiss for lack of . . . personal jurisdiction, ”
Artis v. Greenspan, 223 F.Supp.2d 149, 152 (D.D.C.
2002) (citing Land v. Dollar, 330 U.S. 731, 735 n.4
(1947)), those allegations may be “bolstered by . . .
affidavits and other written materials as [the plaintiff] can
otherwise obtain, ” Mwani v. bin Laden, 417
F.3d 1, 7 (D.C. Cir. 2005). And, although the court need not
accept the plaintiff's allegations bearing upon personal
jurisdiction as true, see Associated Producers, Ltd. v.
Vanderbilt Univ., 76 F.Supp.3d 154, 161 (D.D.C. 2014),
“factual discrepancies appearing in the record must be
resolved in favor of the plaintiff, ” Crane,
894 F.2d at 456 (citation omitted).
evaluating whether it has personal jurisdiction over a
defendant, the Court must first “determine whether
jurisdiction over a party is proper under the applicable
long-arm statute and, ” only if the conduct in question
falls under at least one of the criteria set out in the
long-arm statute, determine “whether [exerting
jurisdiction over the party] accords with the demands of due
process.” United States v. Ferrara, 54 F.3d
825, 828 (D.C. Cir. 1995). Therefore, as a first step, the
plaintiff must “establish the [C]ourt's personal
jurisdiction over the defendant” under at least one
provision of the District's long-arm statute. Day v.
Cornèr Bank (Overseas) Ltd., 789 F.Supp.2d 150,
155 (D.D.C. 2011).
Amended Complaint and opposition to the motion to dismiss,
the plaintiff asserts that the Court can exercise personal
jurisdiction over the defendant under subsections (a)(1),
(a)(2), and (a)(3), see Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2,
as well as subsections (a)(4) and (a)(6), see
Pl.'s Opp'n at 2, of the District's long-arm
statute, see D.C. Code § ...