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Doyon v. Doyon

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 20, 2018

STEVE DOYON, Plaintiff,
v.
YVAN DOYON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PETER J. MESSITTE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Pro 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).

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This 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.

         In 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.

         Eventually, 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.

         On 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.

         Plaintiff, 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.

         On March 13, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. ECF No. 5. Plaintiff opposes the Motion. ECF No. 6.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal 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).

         A 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).

         Consistent 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.[1]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.

         III. ...


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