United States District Court, District of Columbia
COURTNEY T. ALRIDGE, Plaintiff,
G4S SECURE SOLUTIONS USA, INC., Defendants.
E. BOASBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
United States Secret Service denied pro se Plaintiff Courtney
Alridge's job application, and he believes that he knows
why: his previous employer, Defendant G4S Secure Solutions,
disclosed to the U.S.S.S. that it had previously suspended
him. The problem? Alridge claims he was never suspended and
that this representation was false and defamatory. As a
result, Alridge filed a tort action against G4S in the
Superior Court of the District of Columbia. Having removed
the action to this Court, G4S has now filed a Motion to
Dismiss for insufficient service of process and improper
venue. As the Court finds these arguments unavailing, it will
deny the Motion.
April 17, 2019, Alridge filed a single-paragraph, handwritten
Complaint against G4S, alleging that it was “negligent
with [his] employee work file.” ECF No. 3 (Notice of
Removal Errata), Exh. A at 4 (Complaint); see also
ECF No. 11 (Plaintiff's Opposition), Exh. B (more legible
copy of Complaint). More specifically, Plaintiff believes
that Defendant somehow placed inaccurate suspension paperwork
in his file. These papers purportedly appeared in the course
of a background check when Alridge applied for a job with the
Secret Service. See Compl. Plaintiff claims that
this mishandling of his personnel file and authentication of
false documents constitute defamation and negligence.
Id He believes that these actions cost him the job
with the U.S.S.S. and its accompanying increased earnings.
Id. The relief requested is $80, 000. Id.
After receiving service of process on April 22, 2019,
see Pl. Opp., Exh. A. (Return Receipt) at 1 2,
Defendant removed this action from Superior Court to this
Court based on diversity jurisdiction. See ECF No. 1
(Notice of Removal), ¶¶ 5-12. Plaintiff is a
resident of Maryland, and G4S is incorporated in Florida.
See Compl.; Notice of Removal, ¶¶ 6 7.
immediately following the removal, Defendant filed this
Motion seeking to dismiss Plaintiffs suit on the grounds of
insufficient service of process and improper venue.
See ECF No. 8 (Defendant Motion to Dismiss) at 2.
course of evaluating a defendant's motion to dismiss, the
Court must accept a plaintiffs well-pleaded allegations as
true and “draw all reasonable inferences in favor of
the plaintiff.” Myers v. Holiday Inns, Inc.,
915 F.Supp. 2d, 136, 144 (D.D.C. 2013). The Court, however,
does not need to accept as true “a legal conclusion
couched as a factual allegation.” Trudeau v.
FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting
Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). The
Court, furthermore, holds documents drafted by a pro
se plaintiff to “less stringent standards”
than legal documents drafted by an attorney. See Gage v.
Somerset Cnty., 369 F.Supp. 3d 252, 258 (D.D.C. 2019)
of process is a procedural requirement that “must be
satisfied . . . before a federal court may exercise personal
jurisdiction over a defendant.” Lemma v. Hispanic
Nat'l Bar Ass'n, 318 F.Supp. 3d 21, 24 (D.D.C.
2018) (citing Omni Capital Int'l, Ltd. v. Rudolf
Wolff & Co., Ltd, 484 U.S. 97, 104 (1987)). When
evaluating a motion to dismiss for insufficient service under
Rule 12(b)(5), the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that
he properly served the defendant. See Light v. Wolf
816 F.2d 746, 751 (DC. Cir. 1987). The court has discretion
to dismiss the claim or allow the plaintiff to correct
service of process. See Wilson v. Prudential
Fin., 332 F.Supp.2d 83, 89 (D.D.C. 2004).
plaintiff brings suit in an improper venue, the district
court “shall dismiss [the case], or if it be in the
interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or
division in which it could have been brought.” 28
U.S.C. § 1406(a); see also Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(3) (stating that defendant may assert improper venue
via motion). “Because it is the plaintiffs obligation
to institute the action in a permissible forum, the plaintiff
usually bears the burden of establishing that venue is
proper.” Freeman v. Fallin, 254 F.Supp.2d 52,
56 (D.D.C. 2003); see also 14D Charles Alan Wright &
Arthur R. Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. Juris.
§ 3826 (4th ed. 2019) (noting that most federal courts
place burden of establishing venue as proper on plaintiff
when defendant has made proper objection). “To prevail
on a motion to dismiss for improper venue, ” however,
“the defendant must present facts that will defeat the
plaintiffs assertion of venue.” Khalil v. L-3
Commc'ns Titan Grp., 656 F.Supp.2d 134, 135 (D.D.C.
2009). “Unless there are pertinent factual disputes to
resolve, a challenge to venue presents a pure question of
law.” Williams v. GEICO Corp., 792 F.Supp.2d
58, 62 (D.D.C. 2011).
bases its Motion on two grounds: insufficient service of
process and improper venue. The Court considers each in turn.
Service of Process
preliminary matter, the Court must address what procedural
rules govern service of process here. Defendant's Motion
evaluates service under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
See MTD at 2-3. This is erroneous because Plaintiff
attempted service prior to the removal of the case. As a
result, the rules of Superior Court control. See Magowan
v. Lowery, 166 F.Supp.3d 39, 65 (D.D.C. 2016) (looking
at Superior Court service rules in removed case). The
distinction is, to some extent, trivial because the Federal
Rules allow for service to be effectuated if the applicable
state rules are followed. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(h)(1)(A); see
also Fed. R Civ. P. 4(e)(1).
the case here as Plaintiff has indeed properly effectuated
service pursuant to D.C. law. According to D.C. Rule of Civil
Procedure 4(h)(1)(A), a corporation may be served in the same
manner as an individual - which includes the
service-of-process options of certified mail or first-class
mail as outlined in D.C. Rules 4(c)(4) and 4(c)(5). Contrary
to Defendant's characterization, these two subsections
are not separate requirements for service, but
rather separate options for service. D.C. Rule
4(c)(4) prescribes that a defendant “may be served by
mailing a copy of the summons, complaint, [and] Initial Order
. . . to the person to be served by registered or certified
mail, return receipt requested.” When service is
conducted in accordance with this subsection, there is an
additional requirement of a signed affidavit under D.C. Rule
4(/)(1)(B). Defendant nonetheless contends that process is
insufficient because there was no return envelope with
pre-paid postage received. See MTD at 3. Yet, this
is only a requirement for service by first-class
mail under D.C. Rule 4(c)(5). As Plaintiff sent the
relevant documents via certified mail to G4S, see
Pl. Opp., ¶ 3, the return-envelope requirements of D.C.
Rule 4(c)(5) are not relevant. Defendant has already conceded
that it received the Summons, Complaint, and Initial Order.
See MTD at 3. Plaintiffs Opposition, ...