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Varieur v. BIS Global

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 2, 2017

PATRICIA M. VARIEUR, Plaintiff,
v.
BIS GLOBAL, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Date Paula Xinis, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Patricia Varieur, a former employee of Defendant BIS Global, brings this employment discrimination suit against her former employer. ECF No. 1. BIS Global has moved for this Court either to dismiss this case for lack of personal jurisdiction or to enforce summarily the parties' employment severance agreement and mutual release. ECF No. 50. Varieur has opposed the motion, and requested of this Court that, if this Court lacks jurisdiction in the case, the case be transferred to the Eastern District of Virginia. For the reasons below, the Court DENIES BIS Global's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Summarily to Enforce Settlement and TRANSFERS the case to the Eastern District of Virginia.

         I. Background

         Varieur was an employee of BIS Global from February 2014 through July 2015. ECF No. 1 at 4. After having been terminated from BIS Global, Varieur filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging unequal pay, hostile work environment, and sexual harassment. ECF No. 1-2 at 1-2. She received her right to sue letter on June 14, 2016. ECF No. 1-2 at 3. Varieur filed suit in this Court on September 9, 2016. ECF No. 1. BIS Global now moves to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), for improper venue under Rule 12(b)(3), and for insufficient process under Rule 12(b)(4).[1]

         II. Personal Jurisdiction Over BIS Global

         a. Standard of Review

         “A court must have . . . power over the parties before it (personal jurisdiction) before it can resolve a case.” Lightfoot v. Cendant Mortg. Corp., 137 S.Ct. 553, 562 (2017). To determine whether personal jurisdiction exists, district courts conduct a two-step inquiry to determine (1) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction is authorized by the relevant state's long-arm statute; and (2) whether the assertion of personal jurisdiction is consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Constitution. See Ellicott Mach. Corp., Inc. v. John Holland Party, Ltd., 995 F.2d 474, 477 (4th Cir. 1993).

         A court may have either general or specific jurisdiction over a defendant. An exercise of general jurisdiction requires that the defendant's contacts with the forum state be sufficiently continuous and systematic to render it “at home” there. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, SA v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). Specific jurisdiction requires, among other considerations, that that the plaintiff's claims arise out of the defendant's activities in the forum state. See ALS Scan, Inc. v. Digital Serv. Consultants, Inc., 293 F.3d 707, 711-12 (4th Cir. 2002).

         When a defendant moves for dismissal under Rule 12(b)(2), “the jurisdictional question thereby raised is one for the judge, with the burden on the plaintiff ultimately to prove grounds for jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.” Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989); see also Young v. New Haven Advocate, 315 F.3d 256, 261 (4th Cir. 2002) (“The plaintiff, of course, has the burden to establish that personal jurisdiction exists over the out-of-state defendant.”). Although the party opposing a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2) “is entitled to have all reasonable inferences from the parties' proof drawn in his favor, district courts are not required . . . to look solely to the plaintiff's proof in drawing those inferences.” Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 62 (4th Cir. 1993). Instead, when a court considers a personal jurisdiction challenge without an evidentiary hearing, the court construes all relevant pleading allegations in the light most favorable to the opposing party, but it may consider all submissions by both the plaintiff and the defendant in ruling on the motion. See id; Combs, 886 F.2d at 676. To determine whether a defendant has made the required prima facie showing of the existence of personal jurisdiction, the court credits the uncontroverted allegations in the plaintiff's complaint, but when a defendant's sworn affidavit contradicts the allegations in the complaint, the plaintiff bears the burden to present an affidavit or other evidence showing jurisdiction exists. See Wolf v. Richmond Cty. Hosp. Auth., 745 F.2d 904, 908 (4th Cir. 1984).

         b. Discussion

         Because BIS Global properly has moved to dismiss Varieur's claim under Rule 12(b)(2), Varieur bears the burden of proving that this Court has personal jurisdiction over BIS Global. This Court must determine not only what Maryland law allows, but also whether exercising jurisdiction comports with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. See Rao v. Era Alaska Airlines, 22 F.Supp.3d 529, 534 (D. Md. 2014). In response to BIS Global's motion to dismiss, Varieur argues that this Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over BIS Global because Maryland's long-arm statute “allows a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant who ‘transacts any business or performs any character of work or service in the State.'” ECF No. 51 at 2. Varieur alleges in support of this Court's exercise of jurisdiction that BIS Global had a physical location in Rockville at the time her hiring process began, and that BIS Global and its subsidiaries use IP and physical addresses within Maryland. ECF No. 51 at 1.

         Varieur's arguments, however, are misplaced. As the United States Supreme Court recently reaffirmed in BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell, 137 S.Ct. 1549 (2017), whether a court may exercise general jurisdiction over an out-of-state corporate defendant centers on whether that corporation feels “at home, ” and not merely whether a corporation does business in a given jurisdiction. Id. at 1559 (citing Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 761 (2014)). Allowing this case to proceed in Maryland would not comport with due process.

         Construing the evidence and pleadings in the light most favorable to Varieur, BIS Global's contacts with Maryland are not sufficient to confer jurisdiction over BIS Global. BIS Global is not incorporated in Maryland, does not maintain its principal place of business in Maryland, and the claims in this case do not arise out of conduct of BIS Global in Maryland.[2]See BNSF Ry. Co., 137 S.Ct. at 1558-59. Rather, BIS Global is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia as of December 30, 2013. ECF No. 50-2 at 3. BIS Global's submissions also reflect that it has maintained its headquarters in McLean, Virginia. ECF No. 50-2 at 5. Notably, Varieur does not take issue with either of these propositions. This Court, therefore, does not have general jurisdiction over BIS Global for Varieur's claim. See Diamond Healthcare of Ohio, Inc. v. Humility of Mary Health Partners, 229 F.3d 448, 450 (4th Cir. 2000) (in order to exercise specific jurisdiction over a defendant, the defendant's contacts with the forum state must “relate to the cause of action and create a substantial connection with the forum state”). And because Varieur has not alleged that she interviewed for her job in Maryland, that she worked in Maryland, or that any of BIS Global's conduct as relevant to her case occurred in Maryland, no basis for specific jurisdiction exists.

         III. ...


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