United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES INSURANCE COMPANY d/b/a/ GEICO, Plaintiff,
WHITSERVE LLC, Defendant.
W. Grimm United States District Judge
April 22, 2016 letter addressed to Plaintiff Government
Employees Insurance Company (“GEICO”)'s
General Counsel, Dana Proulx, Defendant WhitServe LLC
(“WhitServe”) accused GEICO of infringing two of
its patents by sending automated emails to customers inviting
them to renew their insurance policies. Letter from Daniel R.
Ferri, Niro Law, to Dana Proulx, General Counsel, GEICO Corp.
1 & attach. (Apr. 22, 2016), Compl. Ex. C., ECF No.
WhitServe offered to license the patents at issue to GEICO.
Id. at 1-2. Rather than respond to the letter, GEICO
filed a Complaint in this Court seeking a declaratory
judgment that it had not infringed WhitServe's patents.
Compl. ¶¶ 28-29, 35-36. WhitServe filed the instant
Motion to Dismiss, in which it argues that this Court lacks
personal jurisdiction over the company. ECF No. 19. The
Motion is fully briefed. Def.'s Mem., ECF No. 19-1;
Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 24; Def.'s Reply, ECF No.
25. Because I find that WhitServe has not engaged in any
activities covered by Maryland's long-arm statute, the
Court lacks personal jurisdiction, and I will therefore grant
defendant challenges this Court's personal jurisdiction
under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), the jurisdictional question
“is to be resolved by the judge, with the burden on the
plaintiff ultimately to prove grounds for jurisdiction by a
preponderance of the evidence.” Fyfe Co., LLC v.
Structural Grp., LLC, No. CCB-13-176, 2013 WL 2370497,
at *2 (D. Md. May 30, 2012) (quoting Carefirst of Md.,
Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390,
396 (4th Cir. 2003)). If the Court considers the operative
Complaint and the parties' briefings but does not conduct
an evidentiary hearing, then “the burden on the
plaintiff is simply to make a prima facie showing of
a sufficient jurisdictional basis in order to survive the
jurisdictional challenge.” In re Celotex
Corp., 124 F.3d 619, 628 (4th Cir. 1997) (quoting
Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir.1989));
see also Consulting Eng'rs Corp. v. Geometric
Ltd., 561 F.3d 273, 276 (4th Cir. 2009)). This is the
approach I will take. I “must construe all relevant
pleading allegations in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, assume credibility, and draw the most favorable
inferences for the existence of jurisdiction.”
Fyfe, 2013 WL 2370497, at *2 (quoting Mylan
Labs., Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 62 (4th Cir. 1993)
(citation and quotation marks omitted)); see also Mitrano
v. Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 406 (4th Cir. 2004). Yet, I
“need not ‘credit conclusory allegations or draw
farfetched inferences.' ” Tharp v. Colao,
No. WDQ-11-3202, 2012 WL 1999484, at *1 (D. Md. June 1, 2012)
(quoting Masselli & Lane, PC v. Miller & Schuh,
PA, No. 99-2440, 2000 WL 691100, at *1 (4th Cir. May 30,
Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A), a federal court may exercise
personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant such as
WhitServe if (1) doing so comports with the Fourteenth
Amendment's due process requirements; and (2)
jurisdiction is authorized by the forum state's long-arm
statute. Carefirst of Maryland, Inc. v. Carefirst
Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir.
2003). Maryland's long-arm statute authorizes the
exercise of personal jurisdiction over a corporate defendant
that is neither served in Maryland nor organized under its
laws and that does not maintain its principal place of
business in Maryland, if the corporation:
(1) Transacts any business or performs any character of work
or service in the State;
(2) Contracts to supply goods, food, services, or
manufactured products in the State;
(3) Causes tortious injury in the State by an act or omission
in the State;
(4) Causes tortious injury in the State or outside of the
State by an act or omission outside the State if he regularly
does or solicits business, engages in any other persistent
course of conduct in the State or derives substantial revenue
from goods, food, services, or manufactured products used or
consumed in the State;
(5) Has an interest in, uses, or possesses real property in
the State; or
(6) Contracts to insure . . . any person, property, risk,
contract . . . located, executed, or to be performed within
the State at the time the contract is made, unless the
parties otherwise provide in writing.
Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 6-103(b); see
also Id. 6-103(a); Tawney v. AC & R Insulation
Co., No. WDQ-13-1194, 2013 WL 5887625, at *2 (D. Md.
Oct.30, 2013); Metro. Reg'l Info. Sys., Inc. v. Am.
Home Realty Network, Inc., 888 F.Supp.2d 691, 699 (D.
courts have provided somewhat confusing guidance on the
degree to which Maryland's long-arm statute approaches
the jurisdictional ceiling set by the Due Process Clause. On
the one hand, Maryland courts have held that the long-arm
statute “is coextensive with the limits of personal
jurisdiction set by the due process clause of the Federal
Constitution, ” meaning that the statutory inquiry
“merges with [the] constitutional examination.”
Perdue Foods LLC v. BRF S.A., 814 F.3d 185, 188 (4th
Cir. 2016) (quoting Beyond Sys., Inc. v. Realtime Gaming
Holding Co., LLC, 878 A.2d 567 (Md. 2005)). On the other
hand, Maryland courts also have cautioned that this overlap
does not permit courts to “dispense with analysis under
the long-arm statute, ” Mackey v. Compass Mktg.,
Inc., 892 A.2d 479, 493 n.6 (Md. 2006), and this Court
has noted that “there may be cases where personal
jurisdiction is proper under constitutional due process but
not under Maryland's long-arm statute, ”
Sigalia v. ABR of VA, Inc., 145 F.Supp.3d 486, 490
(D. Md. 2015). The courts have harmonized these apparently
contradictory holdings by clarifying that each individual
prong of the long-arm statute should be interpreted “to
the limits permitted by the Due Process Clause when [courts]
can do so consistently with the canons of statutory
construction.” Mackey, 892 A.2d at 493 n.6;
see also Joseph M. Coleman & Assocs., Ltd. v.
Colonial Metals, 887 F.Supp. 116, 118 (D. Md. 1995)
(“[T]o the extent a ...