United States District Court, District of Columbia
C. Lamberth United States District Judge
she was fired because of her race and gender, Nicole
Urquhart-Bradley sues her former employer Cushman &
Wakefield, Inc. under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and
the D.C. Human Rights Act. She also sues Shawn Mobley,
Cushman & Wakefield's Chicago-based Chief Executive
Officer for the Americas, who fired Urquhart-Bradley (who
worked out of Cushman & Wakefield's D.C. office) over
the phone. But personal "jurisdiction over an employee
does not automatically follow from jurisdiction over the
corporation which employs him." Keeton v. Hustler
Magazine, 465 U.S. 770, 781 n.13 (1984). Here, Mobley
lives and works in Chicago- not D.C. Indeed, his only alleged
contact with D.C. was calling Urquhart-Bradley from Chicago
to fire her. So he moves to dismiss Urquhart-Bradley's
claims against him for lack of personal jurisdiction.
responds with district court cases ascribing a
corporation's forum contacts to individual employees who
exert significant discretionary influence over those
contacts. But Urquhart-Bradley fails to allege facts
justifying that exception here. Accordingly, because Mobley
lacks sufficient contacts with the District of Columbia for
this Court to otherwise exercise personal jurisdiction over
him, the Court will dismiss Urquhart-Bradley's claims
against him under Rule 12(b)(2).
defendant lacks "continuous and systematic"
contacts with the forum, courts have personal jurisdiction
only over specific claims arising out of the defendant's
contacts with the forum. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v.
Superior Court of CaL, 197 S.Ct. 1773, 1779-80 (2017)
(quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v.
Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011)). To establish specific
personal jurisdiction in federal court, the plaintiff must
serve the defendant in accordance with (at least) the forum
territory's long-arm statute and (at most) the Fifth
Amendment's due process clause. See GTE New Media
Servs. Inc. v. BellSouth Corp., 199 F.3d 1343, 1347
(D.C. Cir. 2000). And here, since D.C.'s long-arm statute
reaches as far as the Fifth Amendment allows, see
Mouzavires v. Baxter, 434 A.2d 988, 991 (D.C. 1981) (en
banc), that two-step inquiry collapses into one: this Court
has specific personal jurisdiction as long as D.C. is
"affiliat[ed]" with "the underlying
controversy" because of the defendant's
"activity or occurrence" in D.C. Goodyear,
564 U.S. at 919; see also Fed. R. Civ. P.
cases against corporate defendants, that test usually
precludes personal jurisdiction over non-D.C.-based employees
lacking a personal tie to D.C. After all, even if a court has
specific personal jurisdiction over a corporation writ large,
specific personal jurisdiction over its employees must
"be based on their [individual] contacts with the
forum." Wiggins v. Equifax Inc., 853 F.Supp.
500, 503 (D.D.C. 1994)! Even "[t]he fact that" a
non-D.C. employee "may have acted in a supervisory
capacity over persons with contacts with the District.. .
fails to create personal jurisdiction." Id. In
other words, regardless of a corporation's D.C.
activities, non-D.C.-based employees can only be sued in D.C.
for claims arising from their own transactions, contracts,
property, actions, or relationships within D.C. See
D.C. Code § 13-423.
said, a narrow exception grafts a corporation's D.C.
contacts onto a non-D.C.-based employee if the employee
exerted significant discretionary influence over the
corporation's forum contacts. See Nat'l Cmty.
Reinvestment Coal. v. NovaStar Fin., Inc., 631 F.Supp.2d
1, 8 (D.D.C. 2009). But to invoke that exception, a plaintiff
must allege the company's forum contacts turned on some
ultra vires action by the defendant. Put differently, a
plaintiff cannot attribute a corporation's forum contacts
to an out-of-forum employee who acted solely within his
basis, the court in D'Onofrio v. SFX Sports Group,
Inc. declined to exercise specific personal jurisdiction
over the Texas-based Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of a
corporate defendant in an employment discrimination case. 534
F.Supp.2d 86 (D.D.C. 2008). The CFO's only alleged D.C.
contact was calling the DC-based plaintiff from outside the
jurisdiction to fire her. Id. at 93. So regardless
of whether the termination was illegal, the decision to
terminate the plaintiff "f[e]ll squarely within [the
CFO's] scope of employment." Id.
here. Even under the most generous reading of
Urquhart-Bradley's complaint, this Court's personal
jurisdiction over Mobley turns solely on him calling from
outside the jurisdiction to fire her. That phone call alone
is not enough to confer personal jurisdiction. See Harris
v. Omelon, 985 A.2d 1103, 1105-06 (D.C. 2009) (holding
that "a phone call across state borders .... is not
sufficient to create personal jurisdiction over the
defendant" where the defendant is not "regularly
conduct[ing] or soliciting] business or [pursuing] another
persistent course of conduct in D.C"). And
Urquhart-Bradley never alleges the decision to terminate her
exceeded Mobley's corporate responsibilities. Quite the
opposite: she casts it as an example of the company's
broader "discriminatory practices and decisions."
See Am. Compl. ¶¶ 77-79, 92-94, 107-09,
ECF No. 17. So this Court lacks specific personal
jurisdiction over him.
Urquhart-Bradley fails to allege Mobley's decision to
fire her exceeded his corporate responsibilities, the Court
cannot attribute Cushman & Wakefield's D.C. contacts
to Mobley himself. And because Urquhart-Bradley fails to
allege Mobley had any other relevant contact with D.C, the
Court lacks personal jurisdiction over him. So ...