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Canuto v. Mattis

United States District Court, District of Columbia

June 30, 2018

TERESITA A. CANUTO, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES MATTIS, Secretary of Defense, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          EMMET G. SULLIVAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Teresita Canuto, proceeding pro se, filed a second amended complaint against two United States Army officers and various senior federal officials (collectively “federal defendants”) and private entities Woodman-Sylvan Properties, Inc. (“Woodman-Sylvan”), Cirrus Asset Management, Inc. (“Cirrus”), and Bank of America, N.A. (“Bank of America”). The allegations within Ms. Canuto's ninety-page second amended complaint are identical to those in her first amended complaint:[1] that members of the United States armed forces sexually assaulted her on a number of occasions after infiltrating her home and using sleeping gas to render her unconscious. She asserts various constitutional, federal statutory, and common law claims.

         Pending before the Court are (1) Cirrus' motion to dismiss, see ECF No. 43; (2) Bank of America's motion to dismiss, see ECF No. 44; (3) Woodman-Sylvan's motion to dismiss, see ECF No. 49; and (4) the federal defendants' motion to dismiss, see ECF No. 66. Upon consideration of these motions, the responses and replies thereto, the relevant law, and the entire record, the Court GRANTS Cirrus' motion, GRANTS IN PART Bank of America's motion, GRANTS Woodman-Sylvan's motion, and GRANTS the federal defendants' motion.[2] Ms. Canuto's second amended complaint is DISMISSED.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         The allegations in Ms. Canuto's second amended complaint are undisputedly identical to those in her first amended complaint. Compare First Am. Compl., ECF No. 10 with Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 42; see also Pl.'s Suppl. to Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 60 at 1-2[3] (explaining that the “only difference” between the complaints is “the name of public officials sued in their official capacity who ceased to hold office [who have been] substituted with their successors”).[4] Because the complaints allege the same facts, the Court herein incorporates the facts articulated in Canuto v. Mattis, 273 F.Supp.3d 127 (D.D.C. 2017). See Mem. Op., ECF No. 38 at 3-5.

         To briefly summarize, Ms. Canuto alleges that members of the United States armed forces, assisted by “illegal foreigners” and other civilians acting under the direction of senior military officers and federal officials, sexually assaulted her on numerous occasions beginning in October 2014. See Id. at 3. She alleges that the assaults were first perpetrated in her Panorama City, California apartment, which was managed by Woodman-Sylvan. See Id. In July 2016, Ms. Canuto moved to a Northridge, California apartment building managed by Cirrus, where she alleges that the assaults continued to occur. See Id. at 3-4. Finally, Ms. Canuto contends that important documents and records were stolen from her Bank of America safe deposit box located in Panorama City, California in 2009. See Id. at 4.

         Based on these factual allegations, Ms. Canuto alleges that the defendants have violated her due process and equal protection rights. She also asserts various state common law claims. See Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 42 at 6, 16-18.

         B. Procedural Background

         Because Ms. Canuto brings identical claims in her second amended complaint, it is worth discussing the Court's August 10, 2017 decision dismissing most of Ms. Canuto's first amended complaint. See Order, ECF No. 37; Mem. Op., ECF No. 38.

         In her first amended complaint, Ms. Canuto sued DePauw HK Property Management (“DePauw”) instead of Woodman-Sylvan. See First Am. Compl., ECF No. 10. DePauw argued that it was not capable of being sued and, in any event, it had received improper service. The Court found that Ms. Canuto had clearly intended to sue Woodman-Sylvan, not Depauw, and allowed Ms. Canuto to amend her complaint to replace DePauw with Woodman-Sylvan. Mem. Op., ECF No. 38 at 5-9, 16; see also Order, ECF No. 37. Ms. Canuto named Woodman-Sylvan as defendant in her second amended complaint. See Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 42.

         Cirrus also filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over it. The Court agreed and granted Cirrus' motion, dismissing Ms. Canuto's claims without prejudice. See Mem. Op., ECF No. 38 at 17-23; Order, ECF No. 37.

         Bank of America filed a motion to dismiss as well, arguing that the claims against it were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. The Court granted the motion and dismissed the claims against Bank of America with prejudice. See Mem. Op., ECF No. 38 at 23-33; Order, ECF No. 37.

         Although Ms. Canuto had also sued the federal defendants in her first amended complaint, see First Am. Compl., ECF No. 10, she had not served them, see Mem. Op., ECF No. 38 at 2 n.3. The Court dismissed the claims against the federal defendants without prejudice, see Mem. Op., ECF No. 38 at 2 n.3, and directed Ms. Canuto to file proof of service by a date certain, see Service Order, ECF No. 39.

         Ms. Canuto filed her second amended complaint on August 22, 2017. See Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 42.

         II. Analysis

         When, as here, a plaintiff is proceeding pro se, her complaint must be “liberally construed” and held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)(citations omitted). Construing Ms. Canuto's second amended complaint liberally, the Court concludes that it must be dismissed.

         A. Cirrus' Motion to Dismiss

         Cirrus argues that Ms. Canuto's claims against it should be dismissed because the second amended complaint does not contain any facts that alter the Court's previous ruling that it lacked personal jurisdiction over the company. See Cirrus' Mot., ECF No. 43. The Court agrees.

         The Court dismissed Ms. Canuto's original claims against Cirrus without prejudice.[5] See Mem. Op., ECF. No. 38 at 17-23. Ms. Canuto does not allege any new facts in her second amended complaint such that the Court could find that it has “either general or specific [personal] jurisdiction under the relevant District of Columbia statutes.” Bradley v. DeWine, 55 F.Supp.3d 31, 39 (D.D.C. 2014). Because the facts alleged against Cirrus in the second amendment complaint are, as Ms. Canuto herself explains, the “same” as those already considered, see Pl.'s Suppl. to Second Am. Compl., ECF No. 60, the Court herein incorporates its extensive personal jurisdiction analysis in the 2017 Memorandum Opinion. See Mem. Op., ECF. No. 38 at 17-23.

         Ms. Canuto argues that the Court has personal jurisdiction over Cirrus because it “exercises sufficient control over its subsidiaries.” Pl.'s Opp'n (Cirrus), ECF No. 52 at 10. However, Ms. Canuto does not proffer any facts about Cirrus' alleged “subsidiaries.” See Id. As such, the Court has no basis to find that it has personal jurisdiction over these unknown entities. Indeed, it is not accurate that Cirrus' contacts “bear no relation to [Ms. Canuto's] suit.” Id. The Court cannot hear a claim against a particular defendant unless that defendant has sufficient “minimum contacts with it such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Ms. Canuto has not met her burden to establish a ...


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