United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
se Plaintiff Steve Doyon, a resident of Maryland, has
sued his brother Yvan Doyon, a resident of Vermont, who is
also proceeding pro se, alleging a single count of
slander per se. Defendant has filed a Motion to
Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. ECF No. 5. For the
reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT WITHOUT
PREJUDICE Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 5).
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
action arises out of a dispute over a limited liability
company engaged in maple syrup farming, of which the parties
are the two sole members.
2011, Plaintiff, a resident of Prince Frederick, Maryland,
purchased a parcel of land to establish a maple syrup farm in
the State of Vermont. ECF No. 1 ¶ 2. He approached
Defendant who, as the Complaint reads, resides in Vermont,
about investing in the business and together they formed the
Monadnock Mtn Vt Maple Syrup, LLC, which maintains its
principal place of business in Vermont. Id.; see
also ECF No. 1-3.
the business relationship turned sour. In early 2016,
Defendant filed a suit against Plaintiff in Vermont Superior
Court in Essex County, alleging that Plaintiff had misused
and embezzled funds from the business. ECF No. 1 ¶ 3.
According to the Complaint in the present suit, the parties
hired a private accounting firm to conduct a financial review
of the business, which ultimately revealed that Plaintiff had
invested monies in the business but had not received a
financial gain from his investment. Id. Despite this
finding, Plaintiff says Defendant continued to claim
Plaintiff embezzled funds. Id.
January 25, 2018, Plaintiff filed the present Complaint in
this Court. He alleges that Defendant has made
“damaging and slanderous statements” about him to
“individuals residing in the communities of
northeastern Vermont and northern New Hampshire.”
Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff asserts that he has spoken
to acquaintances in Defendant's community who confirm
they have heard from other community members that Defendant
was saying Plaintiff “stole” company funds.
Id. ¶¶ 14-16. Additionally, Plaintiff
alleges that Defendant falsely stated to several individuals
that the Vermont court had found Plaintiff guilty of
embezzling $200, 000, despite the fact that final court
action has yet to occur in the case. Id.
¶¶ 3, 15.
who is currently an employee of the Federal Bureau of
Investigation in Washington, D.C., claims that
Defendant's statements have precluded him from applying
for a higher-paying position within the agency. Id.
¶ 20. He seeks damages in the amount of $200, 000.
March 13, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack
of personal jurisdiction. ECF No. 5. Plaintiff opposes the
Motion. ECF No. 6.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) governs motions to dismiss
for lack of personal jurisdiction. When a non-resident
defendant challenges a court's power to exercise
jurisdiction, it is a question for the judge “with the
burden on the plaintiff ultimately to prove grounds for
jurisdiction by a preponderance of the evidence.”
Carefirst of Md., Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy
Ctrs. Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir. 2003)
(citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56,
59-60 (4th Cir. 1993)). Where, as here, a district court
decides a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction
without an evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only make
a prima facie showing that jurisdiction exists.
See Grayson v. Anderson, 816 F.3d 262, 267.69 (4th
Cir. 2015). Furthermore, 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. See Brooks
v. Motsenbocker Advanced Developments, Inc., 242
Fed.Appx. 889, 890 (4th Cir. 2007).
federal court in a diversity case may exercise personal
jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant if: (1) the
exercise of jurisdiction is authorized under the state's
long-arm statute; and (2) the exercise of jurisdiction
comports with the due process requirements of the Fourteenth
Amendment. Christian Sci. Bd. of Dirs. of the First
Church of Christ v. Nolan, 259 F.3d 209, 215 (4th Cir.
2001). “The Maryland courts have consistently held that
the state's long-arm statute is coextensive with the
limits of personal jurisdiction set by the due process clause
of the Constitution.” Carefirst, 334 F.3d at
396-97 (citations omitted).
with due process, a court may subject non-resident defendants
to judgment only when defendants have “certain minimum
contacts with it such that the maintenance of the suit does
not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.'” International Shoe Co.
v. Washington., 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). If the claims
“arise out of or are connected with the activities
within the state, ” id. at 319, then those
contacts may establish specific jurisdiction.The Court
considers: “(1) the extent to which the defendant has
purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting
activities in the state; (2) whether the plaintiffs'
claims arise out of those activities directed at the state;
and (3) whether the exercise of personal jurisdiction would
be constitutionally ‘reasonable.'”
Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 397.