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Maisel v. Tarheel Enterprises, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 20, 2014

EARL MAISEL, Plaintiff,
TARHEEL ENTERPRISES, INC., et al., Defendants.


RICHARD D. BENNETT, District Judge.

The Plaintiff Earl Maisel asserts claims against the Defendants Tarheel Enterprises, Inc., Tarheel Industries, Inc., Channel Club Marina, Inc., Morgan Realty & Development, LLC, Michael Chrysanthopoulos, Alexander Chrysanthopoulos, George Chrysanthopoulos, and Antonios Chrysanthopoulos, as Trustee of the Chrysanthopoulos Irrevocable Family Trust (collectively, "Defendants") arising out of injuries Maisel suffered when working on a yacht as a mate. Pending before this Court are Defendant Morgan Realty & Development, LLC's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction (ECF No. 6) and Defendant Antonios Chrysanthopoulos, as Trustee of the Chrysanthopoulos Irrevocable Family Trust's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 26). The parties' submissions have been reviewed and no hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' Motions (ECF Nos. 6 & 26) are GRANTED.


This Court accepts as true the facts alleged in the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 41). See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). The Plaintiff Earl Maisel is a Maryland citizen. Defendant Morgan Realty & Development, LLC, doing business as Channel Club Marina, ("Morgan Realty") is a New Jersey limited liability company.[1] Morgan Realty's only place of business is the Channel Club Marina, in Monmouth Beach, New Jersey. Defendant Antonios Chrysanthopoulos, as Trustee of the Chrysanthopoulos Irrevocable Family Trust, owns a sixty-five foot sport fishing yacht named Tarheel ("Yacht" or "Tarheel"). The Tarheel docks at the Channel Club Marina in New Jersey for half the year, and docks in Florida for the winter.

In 2010, the Plaintiff was hired by Morgan Realty to work aboard the Tarheel as a mate.[2] Morgan Realty employed Maisel as a mate for forty days in the summer of 2010. Approximately twenty of those days were worked in Maryland. In August and September of 2010, the Tarheel and its crew, including Maisel, participated in several fishing competitions in Maryland and won a number of cash prizes. The Plaintiff alleges that the Tarheel entered these Maryland tournaments annually.

In December of 2010, Morgan Realty hired Maisel to assist as a mate on the Tarheel's annual trip to its winter berth in Florida. Maisel boarded the Tarheel at Monmouth Beach, New Jersey for the voyage to Florida. During that journey, the Tarheel stopped for approximately twelve hours in Ocean City, Maryland for fuel and groceries, and continued toward Florida. After leaving Ocean City, the Yacht entered rough waters and Maisel fell while descending a ladder on board.[3] He alleges that the ladder had "round metal rungs and was not equipped with any grip tape or other skid-resistant material." Am. Compl. ¶ 12. Maisel slipped and fell off the ladder approximately eight to nine feet, hitting a rung of the ladder on the way down and landing on the deck. He felt immediate pain in his right shoulder and lower back. The Tarheel next stopped for fuel at Morehead City, North Carolina, where Maisel was taken ashore to the emergency department at Carteret General Hospital. Morgan Realty paid "some of"[4] the Plaintiff's medical bills and provided him with hotel accommodations. Maisel alleges that he suffered permanent injuries to his lower back, ribs, and right shoulder as a result of the fall. He states that he is unable to return to his previous employment and may require additional medical care.

The Plaintiff filed a three-count Complaint in this Court, alleging (1) negligence under the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. § 30104; (2) unseaworthiness; and (3) maintenance and cure. He filed an identical suit in the United States Court for the District of New Jersey, 3-13-CV-07294-FLW-DEA, which remains pending. Morgan Realty and Antonios Chrysanthopoulos separately moved to dismiss the Complaint. Although Maisel filed an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 41), the parties agree that the pending Motions to Dismiss are operative to the Amended Complaint and that no further briefing is necessary. See Letter Order of August 15, 2014, ECF No. 43.


A nonresident defendant may be entitled to dismissal through a challenge to a district court's power to exercise personal jurisdiction, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. CoStar Realty Info., Inc. v. Meissner, 604 F.Supp.2d 757, 763-64 (D. Md. 2009). "[T]he jurisdictional question is one for the judge, with the burden on the plaintiff ultimately to prove the existence of a ground for jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence." Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989). If jurisdiction turns on disputed facts, the court may hold an evidentiary hearing, or may defer ruling on the jurisdictional question until receiving relevant evidence at trial. Id. However, if the court relies solely on the basis of the complaint, affidavits, and discovery materials, "the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction." Carefirst of Md., Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir. 2003). In determining whether the plaintiff has made a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction, the court "must draw all reasonable inferences arising from the proof, and resolve all factual disputes, in the plaintiff's favor." Mylan Labs. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 59-60 (4th Cir. 1993).


I. Defendant Morgan Realty's Motion to Dismiss

Pursuant to Rule 4(k)(1)(A) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a federal district court may assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident in accordance with the law of the state in which the court is located. Synergics Energy Servs., LLC v. Algonquin Power Fund (Am.), Inc., No. ELH-13-2257, 2014 WL 2812230, at *7 (D. Md. June 20, 2014). Personal jurisdiction may be either general or specific. Rao v. Era Alaska Airlines, ___ F.Supp.2d ___, 2014 WL 2215862, at *3-4 (D. Md. 2014) (noting that although less contact is required for specific jurisdiction than general, "both forms of jurisdiction require that the defendant purposefully avail itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum state") (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Therefore, as this Court has previously noted, its exercise of jurisdiction must: (1) be authorized by the forum state's long-arm statute and (2) be consistent with due process. Haley Paint Co. v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. (In re Titanium Dioxide Antitrust Litig.), 775 F.Supp.2d 790, 796 (D. Md. 2011) (citing Carefirst of Md., Inc., 334 F.3d at 396).

Although Maryland courts interpret the state long-arm statute coextensively with the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, the long-arm statute must still be examined as part of the two-step personal jurisdiction analysis. In re Titanium Dioxide Antitrust Litig., 775 F.Supp.2d at 796 (citing Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 396; Mackey v. Compass Mktg., Inc., 892 A.2d 479, 493 n.6 (Md. 2006)). A plaintiff must specifically identify a provision in a Maryland statute that authorizes jurisdiction. Ottenheimer Publishers, Inc. v. Playmore, Inc., 158 F.Supp.2d 649, 652 (D. Md. 2001). Although it is preferable for a plaintiff to identify the statute authorizing jurisdiction in its complaint, a plaintiff ...

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