United States District Court, D. Maryland
RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Bernard Vogel, individually and as a personal representative
of the estate of Jean Vogel, Thomas Vogel, Meredith Vogel,
and Audrey Vogel (collectively, “Plaintiffs”)
bring this diversity action against Defendants Wendy Morpas
(“Morpas”), Navigation, Inc., Navigation Group,
Inc. (collectively “Navigation”), and Midlink
Logistics, LLC (“Midlink”) (collectively,
“Defendants”), stemming from a motor vehicle
accident involving Defendant Morpas and Jean Vogel. Currently
pending before this Court is Defendant Midlink's Motion
to Dismiss Counts IV, V and VII of the Complaint for lack of
personal jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim for
relief. (ECF No. 14.) The parties' submissions have been
reviewed and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule
105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons that follow, Defendant
Midlink's Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED IN
PART and DENIED IN PART. Specifically, it is GRANTED as to
the wrongful death action under Michigan law (Count VII) and
DENIED as to the survival and wrongful death actions under
Maryland law (Counts IV and V).
Court accepts as true the facts alleged in Plaintiffs'
complaint. See Aziz v. Alcolac, Inc., 658 F.3d 388,
390 (4th Cir. 2011). Defendant Midlink, a Michigan
corporation, brokers shipping contracts for the interstate
transportation of goods. (Compl., ECF No. 2 at ¶¶
7-8.) On or around February 16, 2016, Midlink entered into a
“Load Confirmation and Payment Agreement” (the
“Agreement”) for Defendant Navigation to provide
transportation and/or trucking services for Peterson Farms, a
client of Midlink. (Id. at ¶ 29; ECF No. 20-2.)
The Agreement provided that Defendant Navigation would
transport produce from Hart, Michigan to Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 29; ECF No. 20-2.) In
addition, the Agreement stated that Defendant Navigation
would make six intermediate stops between Michigan and
Pennsylvania, including two stops in Maryland. (Id.
at ¶ 29; ECF No. 20-2.) To execute the job, Defendant
Navigation hired Defendant Morpas to drive a large, loaded
eighteen-wheeler tractor trailer. (ECF No. 2 at ¶¶
17, 27.) While Defendant Morpas was driving on Kate Wagner
Road in Carroll County, Maryland, he went through a flashing
red light at a high rate of speed without stopping or slowing
down. (Id. at ¶ 18.) The tractor trailer struck
Jean Vogel's vehicle which had been approaching the
intersection with Kate Wagner Road, ultimately causing the
vehicle to catch on fire and Jean Vogel's
death. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-19.)
31, 2017, Plaintiffs filed the instant action in the Circuit
Court for Carroll County, Maryland, bringing the following
causes of action: survival action under Maryland law against
all Defendants for negligence (Counts I, III, IV); survival
action under Maryland law against Defendant Navigation for
respondent superior liability for the actions of Defendant
Morpas (Count II); wrongful death action under Maryland law
against all Defendants (Count V); wrongful death action under
Illinois law against Defendant Navigation (Count VI); and
wrongful death against under Michigan law against Defendant
Midlink (Count VII). Defendants removed the case to this
Court based on diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1441. (ECF No. 1.) Currently pending before this Court is
Defendant Midlink's Motion to Dismiss those Counts in
which it is named, specifically, Counts IV, V, and VII, for
lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim.
(ECF No. 14.)
Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(2)
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure for lack of personal jurisdiction challenges
a court's authority to exercise its jurisdiction over the
moving party. Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676
(4th Cir. 1989). The jurisdictional question is “one
for the judge, with the burden on the plaintiff ultimately to
prove the existence of a ground for jurisdiction by a
preponderance of the evidence.” Id.;
Sigala v. ABR of VA, Inc., 145 F.Supp.3d 486, 489
(D. Md. 2014). While a court may hold an evidentiary hearing
or permit discovery as to the jurisdictional issue, it also
may resolve the issue on the basis of the complaint, motion
papers, affidavits, and other supporting legal memoranda.
Consulting Eng'rs Corp. v. Geometric Ltd., 561
F.3d 273, 276 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Sigala, 145
F.Supp.3d at 489.
court does not hold an evidentiary hearing or permit
discovery, a plaintiff need only make “a prima
facie showing of a sufficient jurisdictional basis to
survive the jurisdictional challenge.” Consulting
Eng'rs Corp., 561 F.3d at 276. When considering
whether the plaintiff has made the requisite showing,
“the court must take all disputed facts and reasonable
inferences in favor of the plaintiff.” Carefirst of
Maryland, Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334
F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir. 2003). Notably, “‘a
threshold prima facie finding that personal
jurisdiction is proper does not finally settle the issue;
plaintiff must eventually prove the existence of personal
jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence, either at
trial or at a pretrial evidentiary hearing.'”
New Wellington Fin. Corp. v. Flagship Resort Dev.
Corp., 416 F.3d 290, 294 n. 5 (4th Cir. 2005) (emphasis
in original) (citation omitted).
Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes
the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The
purpose of Rule 12(b)(6) is “to test the sufficiency of
a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the
facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville,
464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006); see also Goines v.
Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir.
2016). The sufficiency of a complaint is assessed by
reference to the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), which
provides that a complaint must contain a “short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).
survive a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint
must contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to
relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955,
1974 (2007); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684,
129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Under the plausibility standard,
a complaint must contain “more than labels and
conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 555; Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v.
Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir. 2013). In reviewing a
Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “‘must accept as
true all of the factual allegations contained in the
complaint'” and must “‘draw all
reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the
plaintiff.'” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011)
(citations omitted); see Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs.,
Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015); Semenova v.
Maryland Transit Admin., 845 F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir.
Maryland has personal jurisdiction over Defendant
a court can exercise personal jurisdiction over a
non-resident defendant, a court must determine that (1) the
exercise of jurisdiction is authorized under the state's
long-arm statute pursuant to Rule 4(k)(1)(a) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure; and (2) the exercise of
jurisdiction conforms to the Fourteenth Amendment's due
process requirements. Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 396;
Sigala, 145 F.Supp. at 489. Defendant Midlink argues
that Plaintiff has not met either prong of the personal
interpreting the reach of Maryland's long-arm statute,
Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc., § 6-103(b), a
federal district court must adhere to the interpretations of
the Maryland Court of Appeals. See Tulkoff Food Prod.,
Inc. v. Martin, No. ELH-17-350, 2017 WL 2909250, at *4
(D. Md. July 7, 2017) (citing Carbone v. Deutsche Bank
Nat'l Trust Co., No. RDB-15-1963, 2016 WL 4158534,
at *5 (D. Md. Aug. 5, 2016); Snyder v. Hampton Indus.,
Inc., 521 F.Supp. 130 (D. Md. 1981), aff'd,
758 F.2d 649 (4th Cir. 1985)). To satisfy the long-arm prong
of a personal jurisdiction analysis, a plaintiff must
specifically identify a provision in the Maryland statute
that authorizes jurisdiction. Ottenheimer Publishers,
Inc. v. Playmore, Inc., 158 F.Supp.2d 649, 652 (D. Md.
2001). While it is preferable that a plaintiff identify the
statute authorizing jurisdiction in its complaint, the
plaintiff alternatively may reference the applicable statute
in its response to a defendant's motion to dismiss.
Johansson Corp. v. Bowness Constr. Co., 304
F.Supp.2d 701, 704 n.1 (D. Md. 2004).
Maryland courts “have consistently held that the
state's long-arm statute is coextensive with the limits
of personal jurisdiction set out by the Due Process Clause of
the Constitution, ” Carefirst, 334 F.3d at
396, courts must address both prongs of the personal
jurisdiction analysis. Metro. Reg'l Info. Sys., Inc.
v. American Home Realty Network, Inc., 888 F.Supp.2d
691, 699 (D. Md. 2012); CSR, Ltd. V. Taylor, 411 Md.
457, 475-76 (2009) (explaining that if exercising
“jurisdiction in a given case would violate Due
Process, [Maryland courts] construe our long-arm statute as
not authorizing the exercise of personal jurisdiction over
the defendant” (internal citations omitted)). Under the
second prong, courts must determine whether the exercise of
personal jurisdiction would comport with the due process
requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment. For a non-resident
defendant, “due process requires only that . . . a
defendant . . . have certain minimum contacts . . . such that
the 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) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463
(1940)). A “minimum contacts” determination rests
on the number and relationship of a defendant's contacts
to the forum state, as well as whether the present cause of
action stems from the defendant's alleged acts or
omissions in the forum state. Id.
court may exercise two types of personal jurisdiction:
“‘general' (sometimes called
‘all-purpose') jurisdiction and
‘specific' (sometimes called
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California,
San Francisco Cty., 137 S.Ct. 1773 (2017). General
jurisdiction arises when a defendant has continuous and
systematic contacts in the forum state. Id. at 1780.
On the other hand, specific jurisdiction arises when there is
an “affiliation between the forum and the underlying
controversy.” Id.; Carefirst, 334
F.3d at 397. Regardless of which jurisdiction is asserted,
the general rule is that “the exercise of judicial
power is not lawful unless the defendant ‘purposefully
avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities
within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and
protections of its laws.'” J. McIntyre Mach.,
Ltd. V. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873, 877, 131 S.Ct. 2780,
2785 (2011) (quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S.
235, 253, 78 S.Ct. 1288 (1958)).
Maryland's long-arm statute authorizes the exercise of
with the first prong of the personal jurisdiction analysis,
Plaintiff relies on two provisions of the ...