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Ademiluyi v. National Bar Association

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 8, 2016

APRIL ADEMILUYI, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION, ET AL., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL United States District Judge.

         In this action. Plaintiff April Ademiluyi has alleged counts of negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and conspiracy against Defendants National Bar Association ("NBA"), Daryl Parks, and Benjamin Crump. Presently pending before the Court is the NBA's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim or in the Alternative, for Improper Venue, ECF No. 24, and Mr. Parks' Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim or in the Alternative, for Improper Venue, ECF No. 25.[1] A hearing on the Motions is not necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons stated below, the Court will deny Defendants" Motion to Dismiss but grant Defendants' alternative request to transfer this action to the Middle District of Florida.

         I. BACKGROUND

         This case arises out of events allegedly occurring in Tampa, Florida, in April 2012. ECF No. 19 ¶ 2.[2] Ms. Ademiluyi is a resident of Maryland, where she practices as an attorney. Id. ¶ 5. Mr. Parks and Mr. Crump are both residents of Florida and also practice as attorneys in Tallahassee. Florida. Id. ¶ 9. The National Bar Association is a national network and civil rights organization for predominantly African-American attorneys and judges. ECF No. 24 at 2.[3] At all times relevant to the action, Mr. Parks and Mr. Crump held leadership positions with the NBA. ECF No. 19 ¶¶ 8-9. The NBA is headquartered in Washington, DC, "conducts business in virtually every state and Washington DC, " and has a Maryland affiliate chapter. ECF No. 19 ¶ 7.

         On April 19-21, 2012, Ms. Ademiluyi attended the NBA's Mid-Year Conference held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Tampa, Florida. Id. ¶ 22. Ms. Ademiluyi was a guest at a private party hosted in Mr. Parks' hotel suite during one evening of the conference. Id. ¶¶ 24-25. Ms. Ademiluyi alleges that while at the party, David Phillips, another attorney attending the NBA conference, drugged her with gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid ("GHB"), a date rape drug, and raped her in his hotel room. Id. ¶¶ 26-28. Ms. Ademiluyi visited an emergency room upon her return to Maryland, and notified the Tampa Police Department ("TPD") after toxicology testing revealed the presence of GHB. Id. ¶¶ 30-32. TPD did not bring criminal charges against Mr. Phillips. See ECF No. 24 at 3; ECF No. 19 ¶ 4. Ms. Ademiluyi filed suit in this Court against David Phillips in February 2014. but Judge Titus transferred the case to the District of Nevada. See Ademiluyi v. Phillips, Civil Action No. RWT-14-cv-0358, 2014 WL 1345295 (D. Md. Apr. 3, 2014). Ms. Ademiluyi later dismissed the case against Phillips on her own accord. ECF No. 27 at 13. In September 2015, Ms. Ademiluyi filed the instant suit against Defendants. ECF No. 1. Ms. Ademiluyi claims, inter alia, that Defendants were negligent in failing to provide safe premises for the convention and subsequently conspired with Florida public officials to cover up the incident alleged in her Complaint. ECF No. 19 at 11-16.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When an objection to venue is raised under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3), the burden lies with the plaintiff to establish that venue is proper. Jones v. Koons Auto. Inc., 752 F.Supp.2d 670, 679 (D. Md. 2010). 'To survive a motion to dismiss for improper venue when no evidentiary hearing is held, plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of venue." Milrano v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004). When considering a motion to dismiss, the court must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve all factual conflicts in plaintiffs favor. See Essex Ins. Co. v. MDRB Corp., Civil Action No. DKC 2006-0326, 2006 WL 1892411, at * 1 (D. Md. June 7, 2006).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Proper Venue

         Defendants NBA and Parks challenge Plaintiffs allegation that venue is appropriate in the District of Maryland. ECF No. 24; ECF No. 25. A civil action may be properly brought in: "(1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides, if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located; (2) a judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred . ., ; or (3) if there is no district in which an action may otherwise be brought, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction with respect to such action." 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b). These three subsections are often respectively referred to as "'residential venue, '" "transactional venue, " and "fallback venue." 14D Charles Alan Wright, Arthur R. Miller, & Edward H. Cooper, Federal Practice & Procedure § 3804. The first two subsections define "preferred judicial districts" for venue, while the third subsection provides a "fallback option." Atlantic Marine Const. Co., Inc. v. U.S. Dist. Court for Western Dist. of Texas, 134 S.Ct. 568, 578 (2013). Thus, "if no other venue is proper, then venue will lie in any judicial district in which the any defendant is subject to the court's personal jurisdiction [under 1391(b)(3)]." Id.

         Here, there is no basis to conclude, and Plaintiff does not allege, that Maryland is a proper venue under § 1391(b)(1). Defendants Parks and Crump are both residents of Florida and Defendant NBA is headquartered in Washington, DC. ECF No. 24 at 11; ECF No. 19 ¶¶ 7, 9. In her initial Complaint, Ms. Ademiluyi contends that venue is proper under § 1391(b)(3) because "this Court has personal jurisdiction over all defendants." ECF No. 1 ¶ 19. This argument fails because there is a district, Florida, in which an action may otherwise be brought, so an inquiry into personal jurisdiction under (b)(3) is not appropriate. See Fitzpatrick v. Allyn, Civil No. CCB-11-2202, 2012 WL 346634, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 1, 2012).

         Thus, the only potential basis for venue in Maryland is § 1391(b)(2). Pursuant to § 1391(b)(2), venue is proper in a judicial district in which a "substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred.'' 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2) (emphasis added). Notably, the language of the statute does not provide that venue is proper where "any part" of the events giving rise to the claim, but a "substantial part." See Celsion Corp. v. Stearns Management Corp., No. Civ. CCB-00-1214, 2001 WL 55456, at *4 (D. Md. Jan. 18, 2001). Thus, venue is proper when "many of the events and facts central to this case" are "anchored in Maryland." Ciene Corp. v. Jarrard, 203 F.3d 312, 318 (4th Cir. 2000). All of the key events in this case, including the alleged assault and conspiracy, took place in Tampa, Florida. ECF No. 19 ¶¶ 22-42. Ms. Ademiluyi was allegedly "drugged and raped" while attending a conference in Tampa, Florida. Id. ¶¶ 1-2. Ms. Ademiluyi reported the incident to the Tampa Police Department and subsequently communicated with TPD officials and the State Attorney's Office for Hillsborough County, Florida. Id. ¶¶ 32, 37-41. Ms. Ademiluyi also sought the assistance of Florida State Senator Arthenia Joyner. Id. ¶ 42. Defendants Parks and Crump live and work in Florida, and their law firm is located in Tallahassee, Florida. See Id. ¶¶ 8-9.

         Ms. Ademiluyi's reliance on Mitrano,377 F.3d 402, is unpersuasive. ECF No. 27 at 19. Mitrano dealt with a breach of contract action in which some, but not all, of plaintiffs legal work for defendant was conducted in the forum state. Mitrano, 377 F.3d at 406. Because the legal work entitled plaintiff to the payment sought in the breach of contract claim, the Fourth Circuit vacated the District Court's order dismissing the case for lack of venue. Id. Here, none of the relevant conduct occurred in Maryland. And despite Plaintiffs arguments to the contrary, her allegation that she has "felt all the injuries" from Defendants" torts in Maryland does not create venue in Maryland. ECF No. 27 at 19. "Venue cannot lie simply because a plaintiff continues to experience the psychological effects of an injury in a particular place." McClintock v. School Bd. East Feliciana Parish,299 Fed.Appx. 363, 365 (5th Cir. 2008); see also Miles v. Charles E. Smith Cos.,404 F.Supp. 467, 468-70 (D. Md. 1975) (holding transfer to Eastern District of Virginia was appropriate because alleged accident occurred in Virginia); Massi v. Lomonaco, C/A No. 0:10-265-CMC-PJG, 2010 WL 2429313 (D.S.C. May 25, 2010): Wright & Miller, supra ยง 3806. Indeed this logic was echoed in this Court's transfer of Ms. Ademiluyi's related action against David ...


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