United States District Court, D. Maryland
K. Bredar United States District Judge
Joel Gold brings this action for fraud and civil conspiracy
against Scott Gold, Plaintiff's son, and Doris Gold,
Plaintiff's ex-wife. (Compl. ECF No. 2.) Defendant Doris
Gold has moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction.
(ECF No. 10.) That motion has been fully briefed (ECF Nos.
12, 15), and no hearing is necessary, see Local Rule
105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below,
Defendant's motion will be granted.
STANDARD TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF PERSONAL
party challenges the district court's personal
jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(2), the burden is on the
plaintiff to prove the existence of jurisdiction by a
preponderance of the evidence, and if there is a dispute as
to the pertinent facts, the court may resolve that dispute at
a separate evidentiary hearing or during trial. Combs v.
Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989). However,
where the court decides jurisdiction on the motion papers
alone, ―the plaintiff need only make a prima facie
showing of a sufficient jurisdictional basis to prevail.'
Perdue Foods LLC v. BRF S.A., 814 F.3d 185, 188 (4th
Cir. 2016). ―In considering a challenge on such a
record, the court 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.' Combs v.
Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989).
ALLEGATIONS OF THE COMPLAINT
Complaint alleges that on June 6, 2014, Scott Gold purchased
a boat, ―the Rehoboth Star, ” and at an
unspecified time, caused the boat to be docked in West Ocean
City, Maryland. (Compl. ¶ 6.) On December 4, 2015,
Plaintiff obtained a judgment against Scott Gold in in the
Superior Court of New Jersey in the amount of $248, 777.54.
(Id. at ¶ 4.) Allegedly knowing that Plaintiff
would seek to attach the boat, Scott Gold proceeded to sell
it for $170, 000 to Don Hetherington, Phil Houck, and/or a
business entity they controlled. (Id. at
¶¶ 6, 8, 11.) He allegedly arranged for the sale to
be structured such that the buyers paid a total of $90, 000
to the parties holding security interests in the boat, $10,
000 to Scott Gold himself, and a total of $70, 000 in eight
different checks made out to Scott Gold's mother, Doris.
(Id. at ¶ 11.)
to the Complaint, these payments did not satisfy any legal
right held by Doris Gold, but rather represented an agreement
between her and her son that she would help him to conceal
the assets and protect them from being attached by Plaintiff.
(Id. at ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges that Doris
Gold knew of the judgment, knew of the sale, and understood
that by accepting the proceeds on Scott Gold's behalf,
she would help him to keep that money beyond Plaintiffs
has alleged that in the instant case, the Court has specific
jurisdiction over Doris Gold through the conspiracy theory of
personal jurisdiction. (Pl's Mem. in Opp'n 4, ECF No.
16.) However, in the face of his opponent's challenge,
Plaintiff has failed to make a prima facie showing that at
the time Doris Gold formed her alleged agreement with her son
to defraud Plaintiff she should reasonably have known that
Scott would take some actions in furtherance of that
agreement within the state of Maryland. Such a showing is
required before one may proceed under the conspiracy theory
of personal jurisdiction. Accordingly, Defendant Doris
Gold's motion to dismiss will be granted.
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.' Perdue Foods LLC v. BRF
S.A., 814 F.3d 185, 188 (4th Cir. 2016). The reach of
Maryland's long-arm statute is coextensive with the reach
of the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution,
so the ―statutory inquiry merges with [the]
constitutional examination.' Id. However, courts
may not ―simply dispense with analysis under the
[Maryland] long-arm statute, ' but rather, must interpret
it ―to the limits permitted by the Due Process Clause
when they can do so consistently with the canons of statutory
construction.' Mackey v. Compass Mktg., Inc.,
892 A.2d 479, 493 n.6 (Md. 2006).
long-arm statute provides personal jurisdiction over any
person who, among other things, ―transacts any business
or performs any character of work or service in
[Maryland]' or ―causes tortious injury in
[Maryland] by an act or omission in [Maryland].' Md. Code
Ann., Courts & Jud. Proc. § 6-103(b) (LexisNexis
2013). The statute provides jurisdiction over someone who
performs such acts directly or through an agent. Id.
Maryland's Court of Appeals has concluded that a
co-conspirator is an ―agent' within the meaning of
the statutory text and therefore that Court has adopted the
conspiracy theory of personal jurisdiction. Mackey,
892 A.2d at 495. Under this theory, an out-of-state party who
would independently lack sufficient minimum contacts with a
forum state may nonetheless be subject to suit in the forum
if she engages in a conspiracy with another who has such
contacts. Id. at 484. In other words, certain
actions done in furtherance of a conspiracy by one
co-conspirator may be attributed to another co-conspirator
for jurisdictional purposes. Id. To establish
personal jurisdiction under this theory, a plaintiff must
make a threshold showing that
(1) two or more individuals conspire to do something
(2) that they could reasonably expect to lead to consequences
in a particular forum, [then]
(3) one co-conspirator commits [an] overt act in
furtherance of the ...