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Toure-Davis v. Davis

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 28, 2014

NATHALIE TOURE-DAVIS Plaintiff,
v.
CHARLES G. DAVIS Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

WILLIAM CONNELLY, Magistrate Judge.

Plaintiff Nathalie Toure-Davis ("Plaintiff") initiated this lawsuit against her former husband, Defendant Charles G. Davis ("Defendant"), seeking to enforce Defendant's obligation to support Plaintiff in accordance with an Affidavit of Support he signed after the couple married. The parties consented to proceed before a United States Magistrate Judge for all further proceedings in the case and the entry of a final judgment. See ECF No. 35 ¶ 7[1]. Pending and ready for resolution are Plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of liability (ECF No. 24) and Defendant's cross-motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 28).[2] No hearing is deemed necessary and the court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff and Defendant married on July 29, 1998 in Maryland. Plaintiff is a citizen of Cote D'Ivoire and Defendant is a citizen of the United States. ECF No. 16 ¶ 1. On the same day as their marriage, Plaintiff and Defendant signed an ante-nuptial agreement. See ECF No. 29-1. Paragraph 9 of this agreement provided that

[i]f the parties separate from one another at any time following their marriage, for any reason, it is their mutual desire that each shall maintain and support himself or herself separately and independently from the other. Accordingly, each party releases and discharges the other, absolutely and forever, for the rest of his or her life, from any and all claims and demands for alimony or support, excluding child support, either pendente lite or permanently. This Agreement is not subject to modification by any court.

Id. at 4.

Following their marriage Plaintiff began the application process to obtain an immigrant visa and, eventually, Legal Permanent Resident status ("LPR"). As part of that process, Defendant signed a Form I-864 affidavit of support ("Form I-864") for Plaintiff. While neither side provided the actual document, both parties agree that Defendant signed a Form I-864 on October 28, 1999. See ECF No. 24 at 1; ECF No. 29 at 1. The Form I-864 obligates the sponsor to provide the immigrant any support necessary to maintain the immigrant's income at a minimum of 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Plaintiff attained LPR status on March 29, 2001. ECF No. 16 at 1.

On the same day that Plaintiff was granted LPR status, she entered into a separation agreement with Defendant. Per that document Defendant agreed to provide Plaintiff a residence, furnishings, transportation, health and dental insurance, a yearly stipend for clothing for their two children, a separate $1500.00 monthly payment for child support, and $600.00 monthly in alimony for eighteen (18) months. Plaintiff challenged this separation agreement and the antenuptial agreement in the Circuit Court for Prince George's County, Maryland, seeking declaratory relief that these agreements are void on the basis of fraud or duress. On May 5, 2004, that court reviewed the terms of the agreement, Plaintiff's relationship to Defendant, and Plaintiff's capacity to understand the agreements when she signed them, and found that both were valid agreements and are not void by virtue of undue influence, duress or unfair terms. ECF No. 29-5 at 9 (Tr. Hr'g Davis v. Toure-Davis, Case No. CAD03-26685). That court entered its order on May 28, 2004. ECF No. 29-6. On June 11, 2004 the parties reached a new agreement with respect to the issues of custody, child support, property matters, and alimony. Defendant agreed to pay $2000.00 per month in child support and $600.00 per month in alimony for thirty-three (33) months. ECF No. 29-7 at 2-3.

On June 19, 2013 Plaintiff filed an amended complaint in this court. ECF No. 16. Plaintiff alleges that since June 2001 Defendant has not provided Plaintiff financial support to maintain Plaintiff at an annual income that is not less than 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines as required by Section 1183a(a)(1)(A) of Title 8 of the United States Code, an obligation he agreed to when he executed the Form I-864 in October 1999. ECF No. 16 ¶ 18. Plaintiff seeks judgment in the amount of $131, 864.00. Id. ¶ 21(1). Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on the issue of Defendant's liability (ECF No. 24), which Defendant opposed (ECF No. 29) and Plaintiff supported by filing a supplemental authority (ECF No. 34). Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 28), which Plaintiff opposed (ECF No. 30) and Defendant supported by filing a reply (ECF No. 33).[3] Approximately three months later Defendant filed a second cross-motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 38), Plaintiff filed a response (ECF No. 39) and Defendant filed a corrected second cross-motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 40).

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

This court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the claim involves a federal statute. See 8 U.S.C. § 1183a(e)(1) ("An action to enforce an affidavit of support executed under subsection (a) of this section may be brought against the sponsor in any appropriate court-by a sponsored alien, with respect to financial support [.]"). Venue is proper in this judicial district since Defendant resides in this judicial district. 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(1).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary judgment will be granted only if there exists no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In other words, if there clearly exist factual issues "that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party, " then summary judgment is inappropriate. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250; see also Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Properties, 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987); Morrison v. Nissan Motor Co., 601 F.2d 139, 141 (4th Cir. 1979); Stevens v. Howard D. Johnson Co., 181 F.2d 390, 394 (4th Cir. 1950). The moving party bears the burden of showing no genuine issue as to any material fact exists. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Pulliam Inv. Co., 810 F.2d at 1286 (citing Charbonnages de France v. Smith, 597 F.2d 406, 414 (4th Cir. 1979)).

When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must construe the facts alleged in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962); Gill v. Rollins Protective Servs. Co., 773 F.2d 592, 595 (4th Cir. 1985). A party who bears the burden of proof on a particular claim must factually support each element of his or her claim. "[A] complete failure of proof concerning an essential element... necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323.

On those issues where the nonmoving party will have the burden of proof, it is that party's responsibility to confront the motion for summary judgment with an affidavit or other similar evidence. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. However, "[a] mere scintilla of evidence is not enough to create a fact issue.'" Barwick v. Celotex Corp., 736 F.2d 946, 958-59 (4th Cir. 1984) (quoting Seago v. North Carolina Theaters, Inc., 42 F.R.D. 627, 632 (E.D. N.C. 1966), aff'd, 388 F.2d 987 (4th Cir. 1967), cert. denied, 390 U.S. 959 (1968)). There must be "sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted).

When faced with cross-motions for summary judgment, the court must consider "each motion separately on its own merits to determine whether either of the parties deserve judgment as a matter of law." Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). The court applies the same standards of review. Monumental Paving & Excavating, Inc. v. Penn. Mfrs.' Ass'n Ins. Co., 176 F.3d 794, 797 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing ITCO Corp. v. Michelin Tire Corp., 722 F.2d 42, 45 n.3 (4th Cir. 1983) ("The court is not permitted to resolve genuine issues of material fact on a motion for summary judgment B B even where... both parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment.") (emphasis omitted), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1215 (1985)).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiff alleges Defendant has violated and is presently violating his obligation to adequately support her financially, per the obligation Defendant agreed to when he signed the Form I-864. Plaintiff argues, even assuming the ante-nuptial agreement remains valid despite the entry of the divorce decree, the ...


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