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Mehta v. Maddox

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 3, 2017

DARSHAN MEHTA, Plaintiff,
v.
LYNDA MADDOX, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Darshan Mehta sues his estranged wife Lynda Maddox under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, 18 U.S.C. § 1030, Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2701 et seq. (2012), and various common law torts. Mr. Mehta alleges that Ms. Maddox unlawfully accessed numerous electronic accounts and altered information. Ms. Maddox moves to dismiss the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim, or in the alternative, for the case to be stayed pending the resolution of divorce proceedings currently pending in the District of Columbia Superior Court. The motion to dismiss will be denied as moot and the motion to stay will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Mehta and Ms. Maddox began a romantic relationship in approximately 1988 and at some point in the last 29 years were married. Compl. [Dkt. 3] ¶¶ 8-10. On or around October 9, 2016, Mr. Mehta and Ms. Maddox separated and, as no hope for reconciliation exists, the parties have begun divorce proceedings. Id. ¶¶ 11-12; Opp'n to Mot. to Dismiss or Stay (Opp'n) [Dkt. 7] at 1; see also Maddox v. Mehta, Case No. 2017 DRB 648 (D.C. Super. Ct.). Concurrently with the divorce proceedings, Mr. Mehta brings this lawsuit against Ms. Maddox alleging that she (1) gained unauthorized access to his (a) AT&T wireless account, (b) George Washington University email account, (c) iCloud account, (d) American Express account, (e) Vonage account, (f) United Airlines account, (g) Starwood account, and (h) other unspecified accounts; (2) altered passwords and contact information associated with some of the accounts; and (3) obtained private information, such as call and text message logs, as a result of the unauthorized access.

         Beginning on or around October 12, 2016, Mr. Mehta began to receive security alerts from a number of his online accounts. Compl. ¶ 14. Mr. Mehta's AT&T account, of which he is the sole owner and person with authorized access, was accessed by an unauthorized individual on October 12, 2016. Id. ¶ 20. He alleges that the account was accessed by Ms. Maddox and her brother Donald Maddox from Mr. Maddox's home in Gleneden Beach, Oregon. Id. ¶ 24. The Office of the Sheriff in Newport, Oregon confirmed that Mr. and Ms. Maddox were both present in Mr. Maddox's home on October 12, 2016 after Mr. Mehta called the Sheriff's station and requested that an officer be dispatched to the home. Id. ¶¶ 25-27. AT&T notified Mr. Mehta that the password and security questions for his account were altered. Id. ¶¶ 21, 29. Mr. Mehta also alleges that Ms. Maddox accessed call logs for the AT&T account. Id. ¶ 32.

         From October 10, 2016 to October 15, 2016, Mr. Mehta was unable to access his George Washington University email account. Id. ¶ 39. He later learned that the password associated with that email account had been changed without his knowledge. Id. ¶ 42. Mr. Mehta states, “[u]pon information and belief, ” that Ms. Maddox was responsible for changing his email password. Id. ¶ 43. During the same period, Mr. Mehta alleges “[u]pon information and belief” that Ms. Maddox accessed his iCloud account and gained access to “text messages sent to and from [Mr. Mehta]'s mobile telephone.” Id. ¶¶ 46-48. On October 12, 2016, Mr. Mehta was notified by American Express that the email address associated with his account had been changed to d******x@gmail.com. Id. ¶¶ 57-59. The email address is believed to be associated with Donald Maddox. Id. ¶ 61. “Upon information and belief [Ms. Maddox], with the assistance of Donald, her co-conspirator, was responsible for the email change in [Mr. Mehta]'s American Express account.” Id. ¶ 62. Mr. Mehta also experienced unauthorized access to his United Airlines and Starwood accounts during this time. Id. ¶¶ 65-68.

         On November 26, 2016, Mr. Mehta again received notification from AT&T that his account passcode had been changed. Id. ¶¶ 69-70. “Upon information and belief, [Ms. Maddox] was responsible for the November passcode change” and “unlawfully accessed [Mr. Mehta]'s AT&T account.” Id. ¶¶ 72-73. Mr. Mehta alleges that in order to change the passcode to the AT&T account Ms. Maddox would have needed to impersonate him with AT&T and provide them with his personal information, such as the last four digits of his Social Security number. Id. ¶¶ 74-75. As a result of the unauthorized access in November, one of the telephone numbers associated with Mr. Mehta's AT&T account was transferred to a T-Mobile account and then to a separate AT&T account in Mr. Maddox's name. Id. ¶¶ 77, 80, 82, 89.

         Also on November 26, 2016, Vonage notified Mr. Mehta of an attempted password change to his account. Id. ¶¶ 95-96. “Upon information and belief, [Ms. Maddox] was responsible for initiating a password change request to [Mr. Mehta]'s Vonage account.” Id. ¶ 98.

         On July 27, 2017, Ms. Maddox moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim, or in the alternative to stay proceedings pending the final resolution of divorce proceedings in the District of Columbia Superior Court. See Mot. to Dismiss or Stay (Mot.) [Dkt. 6]; see also Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss or Stay (Mem.) [Dkt. 6-1]. Mr. Mehta filed a timely response, see Opp'n, and Ms. Maddox did not reply. The motion is ripe for review.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss - Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a defendant may move to dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). When reviewing a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1), a court must “assume the truth of all material factual allegations in the complaint and ‘construe the complaint liberally, granting plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.'” Am. Nat'l Ins. Co. v. FDIC, 642 F.3d 1137, 1139 (D.C. Cir. 2011) (quoting Thomas v. Principi, 394 F.3d 970, 972 (D.C. Cir. 2005)). Nevertheless, “the Court need not accept factual inferences drawn by plaintiff[] if those inferences are not supported by facts alleged in the complaint, nor must the Court accept plaintiff['s] legal conclusions.” Speelman v. United States, 461 F.Supp.2d 71, 73 (D.D.C. 2006).

         B. The Doctrine of Abstention

         Under the doctrine of abstention, “a District Court may decline to exercise or postpone the exercise of its jurisdiction” when a related case is pending in a state court. Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 813 (1976). The Supreme Court has developed several abstention doctrines, [1] most of which are based on the principle of “comity” which includes “a proper respect for state functions, a recognition of the fact that the entire country is made up of a Union of separate state governments, and a continuance of the belief that the National Government will fare best if the States and their institutions are left free to perform their separate functions in their separate ways.” Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 44 (1971). In Colorado River, the Supreme Court found that “there are principles unrelated to . . . regard for federal-state relations which govern in situations involving the contemporaneous exercise of concurrent jurisdictions, ” such ...


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