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Winter v. Pinkins

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 29, 2014

ERIC B. WINTER, Plaintiff.
v.
TONYA PINKINS, Defendant

MEMORANDUM

JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.

Eric B. Winter ("Plaintiff") brought this suit against Tonya Pinkins ("Defendant") for alleged malicious use of process, invasion of privacy, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Now pending before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. (ECF No. 8.) The issues have been briefed (ECF Nos. 8, 12, 13), and no hearing is required, Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons explained below, Defendant's motion to dismiss will be GRANTED to the extent that the case will be TRANSFERRED to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

A. BACKGROUND[1]

In 2011, Plaintiff filed a petition in California's Riverside County Superior Court to divorce Defendant. (ECF No. 1 ¶ 4.) The parties have since separated and the divorce remains pending; Plaintiff now resides in Maryland and Defendant resides in New York. ( Id. ¶¶ 1, 2, 4.) A string of contentious litigation followed the divorce petition. ( Id. ¶¶ 11-27.)

Count I of Plaintiff's complaint alleges that Defendant initiated a series of court proceedings against Plaintiff-in California and New York-without probable cause, with malice, and with bad faith. ( Id. ¶¶ 11-27.) Counts II through IV all claim that Defendant attacked Plaintiff's character through web activity on her personal blog, Facebook, Twitter, reportyourex.com, and datingpsychos.com. ( Id. ¶¶ 28-49.)

Defendant filed this motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction on August 14, 2014 (ECF No. 8), along with an affidavit supporting her argument, (ECF No. 8-1). Plaintiff responded on September 4, and also moved to strike Defendant's affidavit. (ECF No. 12.)

B. LEGAL STANDARD

A motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) is a test of the court's personal jurisdiction over the defendant. "[W]hen, as here, the court addresses the question [of personal jurisdiction] on the basis only of motion papers, supporting legal memoranda and the relevant allegations of a complaint, the burden on the plaintiff is simply to make a prima facie showing of a sufficient jurisdictional basis to survive the jurisdictional challenge." New Wellington Fin. Corp. v. Flagship Resort Dev. Corp., 416 F.3d 290, 294 (4th Cir. 2005).

C. ANALYSIS

1. Personal Jurisdiction and Maryland's Long-Arm Statute

Defendant moves to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for lack of personal jurisdiction. "A federal court sitting in diversity has personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant if (1) an applicable state long-arm statute confers jurisdiction and (2) the assertion of that jurisdiction is consistent with constitutional due process." Nichols v. G.D. Searle & Co., 991 F.2d 1195, 1199 (4th Cir. 1993). Courts have consistently held that Maryland's long-arm statute "is coextensive with the limits of personal jurisdiction set by the due process clause of the Federal Constitution." Beyond Sys., Inc. v. Realtime Gaming Holding Co., LLC, 878 A.2d 567, 576 (Md. 2005).

The Maryland Court of Appeals has clarified, however, that this does not mean "that it is now permissible to simply dispense with analysis under the long-arm statute.... Rather... we interpret the long-arm statute to the limits permitted by the Due Process clause when we can do so consistently with the canons of statutory construction." Mackey v. Compass Mktg., Inc., 892 A.2d 479, 493 n.6 (Md. 2006). "In practical terms, then, the due process limitation defines the outer perimeter of Maryland's long-arm statute, but does not eliminate the need to identify a prong of the statute that appears to confer jurisdiction." Beyond Sys., Inc. v. Kennedy W. Univ., 2006 WL 1554847, at *4 (D. Md. 2006); see also Pharmabiodevice Consulting, LLC v. Evans, 2014 WL 3741692, at *3 (D. Md. 2014); Fertel v. Davidson, 2013 WL 6842890, at *2 n.4 (D. Md. 2013).

Maryland's long-arm statute, codified as Courts and Judicial Proceedings § 6-103, explains under what circumstances a Maryland court has personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant:

A. If jurisdiction over a person is based solely upon this section, he may be sued only on a cause of action arising from any ...

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