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Zander v. Bennett

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 7, 2014

MICHELE ZANDER, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
ANDREA BENNETT, et al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

MARVIN J. GARBIS, District Judge.

The Court has before it Defendants' Andrea Bennett and Bennett & Associates' Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction [Document 9] and the materials submitted relating thereto. The Court has held a hearing and had the benefit of the arguments of counsel.

I. BACKGROUND

In this case, [1] Plaintiffs Michele and Steven Zander ("the Zanders") sued their former counsel, Andrea Bennett and the law firms of Bennett & Associates and Gilliland, Ratz & Browning, P.C. ("Defendants)[2] for legal malpractice, i.e., negligently failing to file timely a lawsuit presenting a Federal Tort Claim against the United States.

By the instant motion, Defendants seek dismissal, asserting that they are not subject to personal jurisdiction in the State of Maryland.

II. PERSONAL JURISDICTION

For a federal district court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, two requirements must be satisfied:

1. The exercise of personal jurisdiction must be authorized under the long-arm statute of the state in which the court is located; and
2. The exercise of jurisdiction must comport with the due process requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment.

ASCO Healthcare, Inc. v. Heart of Tx. HealthCare and Rehab., Inc. , 540 F.Supp.2d 634, 640 (D. Md. 2008).

Maryland's long-arm statute limits jurisdiction to cases where the cause of action "aris[es] from any act enumerated" in the statute itself. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 6-103(a).[3] Thus, a plaintiff must identify the statutory provision that authorizes jurisdiction. Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc. v. Playmore, Inc. , 158 F.Supp.2d 649, 652-53 (D. Md. 2001). Plaintiffs in the instant case rely upon the Maryland long-arm statute, § 6-103(b). Compl. ¶ 5.

"The Maryland courts have consistently held that the state's long-arm statute is coextensive with the limits of personal jurisdiction set by the due process clause of the Constitution." Carefirst of Maryland, Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Centers, Inc. , 334 F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir. 2003). Accordingly, the statutory and constitutional inquiries essentially merge into a single inquiry - "the defendant [must] ha[ve] minimum contacts' with the forum, such that to require the defendant to defend its interests in that state does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" Id . at 397 (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington , 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Pertinent Facts

The pertinent facts can be stated succinctly:

• Between August 1997 and December 2002, health care providers at the Naval National Medical Center in Maryland and the Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama provided medical services to Mrs. Zander ...

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