Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Upshaw v. Progressive Insurance Co.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 27, 2017



          JAMES E. BOASBERG United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Solomon Upshaw filed this pro se action to recover damages for the wrongful death of Alma Upshaw (presumably a relative), who was killed in a car accident in Columbus, Georgia, in 1993. Plaintiff seeks $8, 000, 000 in damages from Progressive Insurance Co. and Progressive Corporation in an opaque Complaint that mentions wrongful death, negligence, and possible constitutional claims. The Progressive Defendants now move to dismiss, arguing that the Court cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over them and that all causes of actions are barred by the relevant statutes of limitations. The Court, finding that Plaintiff lacks standing and that Defendants' arguments are sound, will grant the Motion.

         I. Background

         Although the allegations are difficult to decipher, the Court, as it must at this stage, sets out the facts as provided in the Complaint and accompanying exhibits. Complaints filed by pro se parties are “h[e]ld to less stringent standards than those applied to formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

         On June 19, 1993, a motor vehicle driven by Alexander Alarcon struck Alma Upshaw's car at an intersection in Columbus, Georgia. See ECF No. 1 (Complaint) at 1. She died less than two hours after the crash in a local hospital. See ECF No. 1, Exh. A (Upshaw Exhibit) at 9. Plaintiff alleges that Alarcon, though not listed as a party to this action, operated his vehicle negligently at the time of the accident. See Compl. at 2. Although the Complaint never explains Progressive's role or indicates whether it insured either driver, Plaintiff's Opposition does allege that the company insured Alma Upshaw. See ECF No. 6 at 6. On May 26, 1995, Alarcon sued Alma Upshaw's estate and Alma Rae Upshaw Doleman, as executor of her mother's estate, alleging that the decedent's negligence had directly caused his own injuries. See Upshaw Exh. at 2-5. The Complaint does not indicate the result of the Georgia tort action in Muscogee County Superior Court, but Plaintiff nonetheless included the pleading as part of the record. Id. at 2-7.

         Now, 24 years later, Upshaw has filed this action against Progressive. He rests part of his claim for relief, however ambiguous, on the Georgia wrongful-death statute. See Compl. at 2. Construing the pro se Complaint liberally, the Court also finds that Plaintiff alleges a claim for negligence. See id. (seeking recovery for the “death of a human being result[ing] from a crime or from criminal or other negligence”). Finally, the Complaint mentions violations of equal-protection and due-process rights under the U.S. Constitution. Id. Upshaw seeks to recover $8, 000, 000, id., and Progressive now moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The Court will also consider the question of standing.

         II. Standard of Review

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(1), Plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the Court has subject-matter jurisdiction to hear his claims. See Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992); U.S. Ecology, Inc. v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 231 F.3d 20, 24 (D.C. Cir. 2000). A court also has an “affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority.” Grand Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police v. Ashcroft, 185 F.Supp.2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2001). “For this reason, ‘the [p]laintiff's factual allegations in the complaint . . . will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion' than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Id. at 13-14 (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1350 (2d ed. 1987) (alteration in original)). Additionally, unlike with a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court “may consider materials outside the pleadings in deciding whether to grant a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction.” Jerome Stevens Pharm., Inc. v. FDA, 402 F.3d 1249, 1253 (D.C. Cir. 2005); see also Venetian Casino Resort, L.L.C. v. EEOC, 409 F.3d 359, 366 (D.C. Cir. 2005).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a defendant may move to dismiss a suit if the court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. The plaintiff bears the burden of establishing personal jurisdiction. See FC Inv. Grp. LC v. IFX Mkts., Ltd., 529 F.3d 1087, 1091 (D.C. Cir. 2008). In deciding whether the plaintiff has shown a factual basis for personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the court resolves factual discrepancies in favor of the plaintiff. See Crane v. N.Y. Zoological Soc'y, 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990). When personal jurisdiction is challenged, “the district judge has considerable procedural leeway in choosing a methodology for deciding the motion.” 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1351 (3d ed. 2004). The court may rest on the allegations in the pleadings, collect affidavits and other evidence, or even hold a hearing. Id.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must dismiss a claim for relief when the complaint “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” In evaluating a motion to dismiss, the Court must “treat the complaint's factual allegations as true and must grant [the] plaintiff the benefit of all inferences that can be derived from the facts alleged.” Sparrow v. United Air Lines, Inc., 216 F.3d 1111, 1113 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A court need not accept as true, however, “a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation, ” nor an inference unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Although “detailed factual allegations” are not necessary to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, [if] accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal quotation omitted). A plaintiff may survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion even if “recovery is very remote and unlikely, ” but the facts alleged in the complaint “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56 (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

         III. Analysis

         As jurisdictional issues take precedence, the Court will direct its attention first to whether Plaintiff has standing to bring this suit and whether personal jurisdiction over Defendants exists. It will then consider the merits of Plaintiff's state-law and constitutional claims.

         A. Standing

         Although never mentioned by Progressive, the standing of a party to sue “can be raised at any point in a case proceeding and, as a jurisdictional matter, may be raised, sua sponte, by the court.” Cierco v. Mnuchin, 857 F.3d 407, 415 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (quoting Steffan v. Perry, 41 F.3d 677, 697 n.20 (D.C. Cir. 1994)). In order to file a claim on behalf of an individual not present in the litigation, a plaintiff must allege a legally cognizable relationship between that party and himself. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 17(a). He is otherwise not a real party in interest. Claims filed on behalf of an estate, for example, must be brought by the designated personal representative. Id. “The term personal representative is strictly construed under D.C. law to mean only the decedent's executor or administrator.” Estate of Manook v. Research Triangle Inst., Int'l & Unity Res. Grp., LLC, 693 F.Supp.2d 4, 17 (D.D.C. 2010) (internal citation omitted). Alarcon's Complaint filed with the Muscogee County Superior Court, which is included as part of Plaintiff's exhibits, specifies that Alma Rae Upshaw Doleman, not Plaintiff, served as executor of Alma Upshaw's estate. See Upshaw Exh. at 2. Plaintiff does not refute that ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.