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Martin v. Martin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 17, 2016

RICHARD B. MARTIN JR., Plaintiff
v.
RICHARD B. MARTIN SR., KATHRYN L. MARTIN, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          ELLEN L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         On May 31, 2016, plaintiff Richard B. Martin Jr., a resident of Boston, Massachusetts, filed a personal injury action against his parents, Richard Martin Sr. and Kathryn Martin, who reside in Woodbine, Maryland. ECF 1. Jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Plaintiff, who is self-represented, has filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. ECF 2. His motion shall be granted because the financial affidavit accompanying his complaint indicates that he has no source of income. However, his motion to file electronically (ECF 3) shall be denied.

         I. Background

         This lawsuit represents the eighth action brought by plaintiff in this court in the last ten months.[1] Here, plaintiff complains that he has been "emotionally and physically abused…since [he] was born, " at the hands of his parents. Plaintiff's suit includes seven claims, and he seeks $10, 000, 000 collectively, in compensatory and punitive damages, as to all claims. ECF 1 at 1.

         Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that his mother "pretend[ed] to commit suicide with a musket when [he] commented on her cheating at [a] child's card game (possibly, Go Fish)." ECF 1 at 1. He also claims that while he was a teenager, his father "intentionally and highly offensively graz[ed] his…penis…as I lie in bed after giving me a hug goodnight…" Id. Plaintiff recounts that he contacted the Howard County Police Department in late 2007 concerning his father's sexual abuse. Id. at 2.[2] Thereafter, his mother. a psychiatric nurse, "started telling family members that [Martin] had a serious mental illness." Id.

         In 2012, plaintiff "moved back home after living abroad" but alleges that he was not treated with respect. Id. at 3. According to plaintiff, in June 2013, his father "began to harass" him and refused to leave him alone, and instead "attempt[ed] to initiate conversation and…to inappropriately order [plaintiff] to do different tasks." Id. Plaintiff claims that during one encounter with his father, plaintiff attempted to leave the house, but his father

[u]sed his body to prevent [plaintiff] from progressing farther up the stairs. With his groin at the level of about [plaintiff's] midabdomen he quickly positioned his genital region close to [plaintiff's] body and stimulated himself against [plaintiff's] body…He proceeded to throw some of [plaintiff's] clothes into the backyard. It was raining.

Id. at 4.

         In addition, plaintiff alleges that his parents "propagate[ed] the rumor that [he] was mentally ill" and "defamed [him] so severely" because "they don't want [him] to inherit what is rightfully [his] and don't want others to believe that Mr. Martin has sexually abused minors." Id. at 3. Further, plaintiff states that his parents obtained a court order for a psychiatric evaluation of plaintiff. As a result, on August 15, 2015, Sheriff's deputies removed plaintiff from a family member's home and took him to Frederick Memorial Hospital, where he remained for ten days, "unjustly." Id. at 4.

         Under the heading of "Statement of Claims, " plaintiff asserts numerous causes of action against both defendants. These are set forth below.

         In Claim I, plaintiff asserts intentional infliction of emotional distress, based on the alleged assaultive behavior of his father, plaintiff's alleged false imprisonment at Frederick Memorial Hospital, and the defamatory statements as to plaintiff's alleged mental illness. In Claim II, plaintiff alleges negligence, claiming his parents had "a legal duty" to "exercise reasonable care towards [him] when [he] was living at home." Id. at 5. Instead, they failed to do so; Martin Sr. "indecently assaulted" plaintiff; and "Mrs. Martin enabled it." Id. at 5. In Claim III, plaintiff alleges battery, based on his father's "sexual and nonsexual contact" with plaintiff, for which "[b]oth defendants are responsible. . . ." Claim IV alleges defamation based on the conduct of plaintiff's parents in "telling others" that plaintiff is "mentally ill to cover up Mr. Martin's history of sexual abuse and to prevent [plaintiff] from accessing the family's wealth." Id. Plaintiff asserts in Claim V false imprisonment as to his hospitalization. And, in Claim VI plaintiff alleges assault based on his father's "sexual and nonsexual contact, " again asserting that [b]oth defendants are liable . . . ." Id. at 6. Finally, in Claim VII, plaintiff asserts "malicious prosecution, " based on his parents' conduct in having him "ordered to Frederick Memorial Hospital where [plaintiff] was falsely imprisoned, harassed, and assaulted." Id.

         II. Jurisdiction

         Plaintiff asserts subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity.

         Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction and "may not exercise jurisdiction absent a statutory basis." Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 552 (2005). The question of subject matter jurisdiction may be raised by the parties or the court, sua sponte, at any stage of the litigation. Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500, 506 (2006); see Ellenburg v. Spartan Motors Chassis, Inc., 519 F.3d 192, 197 (4th Cir. 2008). Indeed, courts "have an independent obligation to determine whether subject-matter jurisdiction exists, even when no party challenges it." Hertz Corp. v. Friend, 559 U.S. 77, 94 (2010).

         "A court is to presume . . . that a case lies outside its limited jurisdiction unless and until jurisdiction has been shown to be proper." United States v. Poole, 531 F.3d 263, 274 (4th Cir. 2008) (citing Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., 511 U.S. 375, 377 (1994)). Under the "well-pleaded complaint" rule, the facts showing the existence of subject matter jurisdiction "must be affirmatively alleged in the complaint." Pinkley, Inc. v. City of Frederick, 191 F.3d 394, 399 (4th Cir.1999) (citing McNutt v. Gen'l Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178 (1936)). Moreover, the "burden of establishing subject matter jurisdiction is on ... the party asserting jurisdiction." Robb Evans & Assocs., LLC v. Holibaugh, 609 F.3d 359, 362 (4th Cir. 2010); accord McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408 (4th Cir. 2010).

         Here, as noted, plaintiff asserts subject matter jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. It is satisfied if the litigation is between "citizens of different States" and "the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000, exclusive of interest and costs." 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1).

         With respect to the amount-in-controversy requirement, the Supreme Court has articulated two standards that are seemingly in tension. On the one hand, in Saint Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co., 303 U.S. 283 (1938), the Court said: "The rule governing dismissal for want of jurisdiction . . . is that . . . the sum claimed by the plaintiff controls if the claim is apparently made in good faith. It must appear to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount to justify dismissal." Id. at 288-89 (emphasis added) (internal footnotes omitted). In other words, "if, from the face of the pleadings, it is apparent, to a legal certainty, that the plaintiff cannot recover the amount claimed . . ., the suit will be dismissed." Id. at 289 (emphasis added).

         On the other hand, in McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp. of Indiana, 298 U.S. 178 (1936), the Supreme Court considered a complaint that was "destitute of any appropriate allegation as to jurisdictional amount save the general allegation that the matter in controversy exceeds $3, 000, " which was then the statutory amount-in-controversy threshold, and the "particular allegations" of the complaint shed no further "light upon that subject." Id. at 181. In that circumstance, the Court said that the plaintiff "must allege in his pleading the facts essential to show jurisdiction." Id. at 189 (emphasis added). The Court continued: "The authority which the statute vests in the court to enforce the limitations of its jurisdiction precludes the idea that jurisdiction may be maintained by mere averment . . . . If [the plaintiff's] allegations of jurisdictional facts are challenged by his adversary in any appropriate manner, he must support them by competent proof." Id. (emphasis added).

         In Momin v. Maggiemoo's International, LLC, 205 F.Supp.2d 506 (D. Md. 2002), Judge Blake observed that, "[i]n determining whether an amount in controversy is sufficient to confer jurisdiction, " courts have applied "one of two legal standards depending on whether the damages are specified or unspecified in the complaint, " id. at ...


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