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Elsalameen v. Bank of Palestine, P.L.C.

United States District Court, District of Columbia

September 4, 2019




         Plaintiff, Fadi Elsalameen, filed an eight-count amended complaint against the Bank of Palestine, P.L.C. ("Bank of Palestine" or "Bank") alleging: 1) defamation per se, 2) conspiracy to defame, 3) invasion of privacy - publicity concerning private life of another, 4) invasion of privacy - false light, 5) tortious interference with contract, 6) fraud, 7) civil conspiracy, and 8) intentional infliction of emotional distress. Second Am. Compl. [Dkt # 36] ("Am. Compl") ¶¶ 111-59. Plaintiff seeks a declaratory judgment, compensatory damages of at least $5, 980, 000.00, punitive damages, and attorneys' fees and costs. Id., "Prayer for Relief," at 39-40. The Bank moved to dismiss the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff opposed the motion and cross-moved for limited jurisdictional discovery. The Court granted plaintiffs discovery request and held the motion to dismiss in abeyance while the parties conducted discovery. After reviewing the complete record, including the parties' post-discovery supplemental filings, the Court finds that it lacks personal jurisdiction over defendant, and it will dismiss the suit pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2).


         In his second amended complaint, plaintiff alleges that the Bank of Palestine engaged in a "prolonged, calculated effort to discredit, threaten, extort, and silence" him due to his criticism of the "Palestinian regime" and "powerful Palestinian institutions and individuals." Second Am. Compl. at 1.[1] Plaintiff brought this suit under the Court's diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Id. ¶ 1. He alleges that he is a U.S. citizen currently residing in the state of North Carolina, but that he suffered most of the alleged harm while he was living in the District of Columbia. Id. The Bank of Palestine is a citizen of Palestine, and it is not domiciled in the District of Columbia nor North Carolina. Id.

         On July 12, 2018, the Bank of Palestine moved to dismiss the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. Def. Bank of Palestine, P.L.C.'s Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 29] ("Def.'s Mot."), Def. Mem. of Law in Supp. of its Mot. [Dkt. #29-1] ("Def.'s Mem."). Plaintiff opposed the motion, arguing among other things, that personal jurisdiction is proper under the D.C. long-arm statute, D.C. Code § 13-423(a)(4), based upon the Bank's activities which "are persistent and reasonably connect[ed] ... to the District of Columbia." Pl.'s Opp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss & Mem. in Supp. of Cross-Mot. [Dkt. #31] ("Pl.'s Opp.") at 4-7. Plaintiff asserted that, among other activities, the defendant solicited capital investments in the District and engaged in online banking transactions with D.C. residents. Id. at 5-7. In the alternative, plaintiff cross-moved to conduct limited jurisdictional discovery on the extent of the Bank's contacts with the District of Columbia. Pl.'s Cross-Mot., In the Alternative, For Limited Jurisdictional Discovery [Dkt. # 32] ("Pl.'s Cross-Mot.") at 2-4.

         On November 27, 2018, the Court granted plaintiffs cross-motion to hold defendant's motion to dismiss in abeyance to allow for jurisdictional discovery. Min. (Nov. 27, 2018).

         The Court limited the scope of discovery to address four relevant questions:

In particular, discovery may address: 1) whether defendant solicited capital investments from private individuals or entities - as opposed to any governmental entities or arms of the World Bank, which would not be relevant - within the District of Columbia; 2) whether it solicited new banking customers within the District of Columbia; 3) whether it operates any branches or offices or employs any individuals in the District of Columbia; and 4) the use of its online website by customers within the District of Columbia to transact banking business, including, the nature, frequency, and volume of any such use.

Id. After conducting discovery, the parties submitted supplemental briefs and exhibits in support of their positions. Pl.'s Suppl. Opp. to Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. #41] ("Pl.'s Suppl") (sealed); Def.'s Suppl Reply in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 42] (Def.'s Suppl").


         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a plaintiff "must make a prima facie showing of the pertinent jurisdictional facts." Livnat v. Palestinian Auth., 851 F.3d 45, 56-57 (D.C. Cir. 2017), quoting First Chicago Int'l v. United Exch. Co., 836 F.2d 1375, 1378 (D.C. Cir. 1988). This requires specific factual allegations connecting the defendant to the forum. First Chicago Int'l, 836 F.3d at 1378, citing Greenspun v. Del E. Webb Corp., 634 F.2d 1204, 1208 n.5 (9th Cir. 1980). Conclusory statements and bare allegations are insufficient. Livnat, 851 F.3d at 57, citing First Chicago Int'l, 836 F.3d at 1378-79. In conducting the personal jurisdiction analysis, any factual discrepancies must be resolved in favor of the plaintiff, Crane v. New York Zoological Soc., 894 F.2d 454, 456 (D.C. Cir. 1990). But the Court need not treat all of the plaintiffs jurisdictional allegations as true. Myers v. Holiday Inns, Inc., 915 F.Supp.2d 136, 139 (D.D.C. 2013). "Instead, the court may receive and weigh affidavits and any other relevant matter to assist it in determining the jurisdictional facts." Id., citing United States v. Philip Morris, Inc., 116 F.Supp.2d 116, 120 n.4 (D.D.C. 2000).


         "To establish personal jurisdiction over a non-resident . . . [the Court] must first decide whether statutory jurisdiction exists under the District's long-arm statute and, if it does, then [the Court] must determine whether an exercise of jurisdiction would comport with constitutional limitations" of the Due Process Clause. Forras v. Rauf, 812 F.3d.1102, 1105-06 (D.C. Cir. 2016). In his opposition to the motion to dismiss, plaintiff contends that personal jurisdiction is ...

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