United States District Court, District of Columbia
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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.
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
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.
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
firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
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.
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.
Motion to Dismiss - Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)
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
The Doctrine of Abstention
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,  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, ”