United States District Court, D. Maryland
NORMAN WILLIAMS, DIANE HOWE, KEVIN ATTAWAY and JAMEL BLAKELEY, Plaintiffs,
ROMARM, S.A., Defendant.
THEODORE D. CHUANG, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
20, 2015, the Court granted a Motion to Dismiss, filed by
Defendant Romarm, S.A. ("Romarm"), based on its
finding that the Court lacked personal jurisdiction over
Romarm. On March 15, 2016, with leave of the Court,
Plaintiffs Norman Williams ("Williams"), Diane Howe
("Howe",, Kevin Attaway ("Attaway",, and
Jamel Blakely ("Blakely") (collectively,
"Plaintiffs") filed an Amended Complaint. ECF No.
56. Pending before the Court is Romarm's Motion to
Dismiss Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. ECF No. 57.
Because Plaintiffs have failed to cure the jurisdictional
defects necessitating dismissal of the original Complaint,
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED.
factual background and procedural history of this case up to
the granting of Romarm's first Motion to Dismiss are set
forth in the Court's opinion on that motion and so will
be only summarized here. See Williams v. Romarm,
S.A., 116 F.Supp.3d 631, 634-35 (D. Md. 2015).
Plaintiffs, who are citizens of Maryland and the District of
Columbia, filed suit on September 2, 2014 against Romarm
because a firearm manufactured by Romarm was allegedly used
in two shootings that occurred in Washington, D.C. in 2010.
The first shooting, on March 22, 200,, resulted in the death
of the son of Williams and Howe; the second, on March 30,
2010, resulted in injury to Attaway and Blakeley. Plaintiffs
alleged a violation of the District of Columbia Assault
Weapons Manufacturing Strict Liability Act, D.C. Code SS
7-2551.01 to 7-2551.03 (2013), and common law claims for
wrongful death, negligence, and nuisance.
20, 2015, the Court granted Romarm's first Motion to
Dismiss on the grounds that the Court lacked personal
jurisdiction over Romarm, a company wholly owned by the
Romanian government that engages in the international
marketing and sale of firearms. In so ruling, the Court first
concluded that, based on a prior ruling by the United States
District Court for the District of Columbia in a predecessor
case, the doctrine of collateral estoppel required the Court
to adopt the finding that Romarm is a sufficiently
independent entity from the Romanian government such that due
process requires that Romarm have "minimum
contacts" with Maryland in order to establish personal
jurisdiction. See Williams, 116 F.Supp.3d at 636-37.
Court then considered the jurisdictional facts alleged in the
Complaint. Plaintiffs alleged that Romarm sells firearms to a
United States distributor, Century Arms International, Inc.
("Century",, pursuant to a loyalty agreement and
contract, "for distribution to its dealers inside the
United States, including Maryland, " such that its sales
have a "direct effect" in the United States. Compl.
¶¶ 3-4, 8-9, ECF NO.2. Plaintiffs also asserted
that the weapon used to kill J.H. and injure Attaway and
Blakeley was manufactured by Romarm and was the subject of a
"sale and purchase" in Maryland before it "was
transported from Maryland to the District of Columbia"
and used in the shootings. Id. ¶¶ 4, 11.
The Court also analyzed documents submitted after the hearing
on the motion, including printouts from the websites of two
Maryland-based firearms dealers, Atlantic Firearms LLC and
Atlantic Guns, each advertising a Romarm firearm for sale.
See Williams, 116 F.Supp.3d at 641 n.6. The Court
determined that, while "there can be no doubt... that
Romarm has purposefully availed itself of the United States
market, " under controlling precedent from the United
States Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals
for the Fourth Circuit, it was not sufficient to show merely
that Romarm had targeted the United States generally or that
a Romarm weapon had at some point made its way to Maryland;
rather, a showing that Romarm made a "specific
effort" to sell firearms in Maryland was required.
See Id. at 641-42. Because Plaintiffs "had not
even shown that the firearm in question was sold in Maryland,
much less that there is a regular course of sales of Romarm
firearms in Maryland from which such purposeful conduct could
be inferred, " the Court granted the motion to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction. Id. at 642.
then requested leave to amend their Complain.. In its Order
granting leave to amend, the Court instructed Plaintiffs that
the Amended Complaint should fully address the due process
element of personal jurisdiction and "stat[e] with
specificity all known facts relating to Romarm's contacts
with Maryland." See Order at 4-5, ECF No. 55.
seeks dismissal of the Amended Complaint on a number of
grounds, including under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2) based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. At the
pleading stage, the plaintiff must make a prima facie showing
that the defendant is properly subject to the court's
jurisdiction. See Mylan Labs, Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2
F.3d 56, 59-60 (4th Cir. 1993). For purposes of resolving the
Motion, the Court takes the facts set forth in the Amended
Complaint as true and draws all reasonable inferences in the
Plaintiffs' favor. See Id. at 60. The Court,
however, is also permitted to consider evidence outside the
pleadings in resolving a motion under Rule 12(b)(2). See
Structural Pres. Sys., LLC v. Andrews, 931 F.Supp.2d
667, 671 (D.Md. 2013).
Amended Complaint asserts that Romarm exports a substantial
volume of firearms to the United States through its exclusive
distributor, Century, with whom Romarm allegedly maintains a
loyalty agreement "to ensure that Romarm products are
promoted and marketed properly." Am. Compl. ¶¶
14-15, ECF No. 56. This loyalty agreement, according to
Plaintiffs, "exemplifies the direct intent of Romarm to
serve the entire U.S. market, including Maryland."
Id. ¶ 15. Century purchases "on average, a
minimum of $1.35 million per quarter" in firearms from
Romarm and distributes them to federal firearms licensed gun
dealers ("FFLs") for resale throughout the United
States. Id. ¶ 14. Romarm also
"manufactures and designs its weapons so that they can
be modified by Century to comply with the firearm laws of the
United States, and in turn its state-wide FFL dealers,
including those in Maryland." Id. ¶ 11.
Romarm "relies on Maryland law enforcement, including
its state and county police, to secure their dealer
warehouses from criminal activity" and trace stolen
weapons. Id. ¶ 16. Plaintiffs have also
attached as an exhibit an incomplete printout from Atlantic
Firearms LLC advertising a Romarm WASR-10 rifle, the same
type of gun allegedly used in the shootings in this case.
respect to the weapon used in the March 2010 shootings,
Plaintiffs attach to the Amended Complaint a record
indicating that the firearm was sold on March 29, 2007 by
Maryland Small Arms Range, Inc., a Maryland FFL. The Amended
Complaint states that the weapon was sold by Century directly
to Maryland Small Arms Range, Inc. However, Romarm has
attached to its Motion records showing that the firearm was
shipped from Romania to Century's Vermont location on
November 22, 2006, and that Century then sold it on December
1, 2006 to an FFL located in Dayton, Ohio. Plaintiffs concede
in their Opposition that the firearm was not, in fact, sold
from Century directly to a Maryland FFL, but nevertheless
assert that an "interlocking network" operates
among FFLs in the United States that benefits Romarm.
See Pl's Opp'n Mot. Dismiss at 10-11, ECF
substance of the vast majority of these allegations was
before the Court on the first Motion to Dismiss. The Amended
Complaint adds the following new jurisdictional facts: (1)
Romarm partners with Century to adapt its weapons to the
requirements of the United States market and sell them
nationwide, generating substantial revenue; (2) because of
the presence of numerous FFLs in Maryland, there must be a
significant volume of Romarm firearms transported into and
sold in Maryland, requiring Romarm to rely on support from
Maryland law enforcement; and (3) in 2007, the firearm later
used in the shootings was received by a Maryland FFL and then
sold, though neither Romarm nor Century sold it directly into
Maryland. These new allegations fall short of fulfilling due
process requirements and constrain the Court to again
conclude that it cannot exercise personal jurisdiction over
prior Memorandum Opinion, the Court reviewed in detail the
requirements for establishing personal jurisdiction
articulated by the Supreme Court and the Fourth Circuit.
See Williams, 116 F.Supp.3d at 638-642. In summary,
where, as here, the plaintiff does not allege that the
defendant maintains continuous and systematic contacts with
the forum state, the plaintiff must instead show that the
defendant has sufficient "minimum contacts" with
the forum state such that "maintenance of the suit does
not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice." Int'l Shoe Co v. Washington, 326
U.S. 310, 316 (1945). In the Fourth Circuit, the test for
personal jurisdiction is whether (1) the defendant has
"created a substantial connection to the forum state by
action purposefully directed toward the forum state";
and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction would not offend
"traditional notions of fair play and substantial
justice." Lesnick v. Hollingsworth & Vose
Co.,35 F.3d 939, 945-46 (4th Cir. 1994). In this case,
Plaintiffs must satisfy the "minimum contacts"
requirement by demonstrating that Romarm maintains a
"regular course of sales" into Maryland or by
establishing the presence of other facts, "such as
'special state-related design, ...