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Gold v. Gold

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 2, 2018

JOEL GOLD, Plaintiff
v.
SCOTT GOLD, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          James K. Bredar Chief Judge

         Plaintiff Joel Gold brought this action against Defendants Scott Gold and Doris Gold in state court in Maryland on December 21, 2016. (See Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) The case was removed to this Court, and since then the Court has twice dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction on motions from the Defendants. (See Mems., ECF Nos. 20, 50.) Before the Court is the third round of such motions: a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction by Doris (ECF No. 65) and the same by Scott (ECF No. 68). These motions are fully briefed, ripe and ready for review. There is no need to hold a hearing to resolve the matter. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will transfer the case to the Southern District of Florida.

         I. Background[1]

         Plaintiff, a resident of New Jersey, obtained a money judgment against his estranged son Scott Gold, a Florida resident, in New Jersey State Court on December 4, 2015. (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 3-4, ECF No. 59.) “Shortly after” Plaintiff obtained this money judgment, Scott sold a marine vessel, in order to hide assets from his father. (Id. ¶ 8.) Scott had purchased the vessel, the “Rehoboth Star, ” the previous year, on June 6, 2014. (Id. ¶ 6.) The vessel was “eventually” kept in West Ocean City, Maryland. (Id.) It was there when the vessel was sold, and the sale took place in Maryland. (Id. ¶ 8.) Plaintiff does not allege that Scott has ever set foot in Maryland.

         Nor does Plaintiff allege that his ex-wife, Defendant Doris Gold has been to Maryland. Plaintiff does allege, however, “upon information and belief, ” that Doris knew Scott was going to sell the Rehoboth Star in order to hide assets from her ex-husband, and knew Scott was going to sell the vessel in Maryland. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 13.) She received a portion of the proceeds from the sale, in the form of eight checks under $10, 000, totaling $70, 000 in all. (Id. ¶ 11.) The checks she received were “issued in Maryland from a Maryland bank, and sent from Maryland.” (Id.; see Checks, Second Am. Compl. Ex. B, ECF No. 59-2.)

         On December 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint against Doris and Scott in Maryland state court, asserting two state law causes of action: violation of Maryland's Fraudulent Conveyance statute, and civil conspiracy. (See Compl., ECF No. 2.) Doris removed the case to this Court on the basis of diversity of citizenship on February 17, 2017, and then moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. (See Notice of Removal; Doris Gold First Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 10.)

         On May 15, 2017, the Court granted Doris's motion. (See First Mem., ECF No. 20.) The Court held that Plaintiff had not alleged sufficient facts to establish personal jurisdiction over Doris under a theory of conspiracy jurisdiction. Plaintiff had not alleged that Doris had knowledge, prior to Scott selling the vessel, of the scheme to hide assets and, crucially, that the scheme would involve the State of Maryland. Plaintiff amended his complaint (see First Am. Compl., ECF No. 28), and in response Doris again moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction (see ECF No. 32). Scott moved to dismiss on the same grounds. (See ECF No. 39.)

         On September 28, 2017, the Court granted both Defendants' motions to dismiss. (See Second Mem., ECF No. 50.) Plaintiff had failed to allege, or clearly identify, a provision of the Maryland long-arm statute that would authorize the exercise of personal jurisdiction over either Defendant, and so the case was dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction. Plaintiff did not, at first, amend his complaint to cure this deficiency. Instead, he appealed to the United State Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, who found that “[b]ecause [Plaintiff] may be able to remedy the deficiency identified by the district court by filing an amended complaint . . . the order [Plaintiff] seeks to appeal is neither a final order nor an appealable interlocutory or collateral order.” Gold v. Gold, No. 17-2270, 2018 WL 2046107, at *1 (4th Cir. Jan 18, 2018). The court accordingly “dismiss[ed] the appeal for lack of jurisdiction and remand[ed] the case to the district court with instructions to allow [Plaintiff] to amend his complaint.” Id.

         The Court followed those instructions, and granted Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint a second time. (See Order Reopening Case, ECF No. 58.) Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint on March 16, 2018. Both Doris and Scott have again moved to dismiss this complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. (See Doris Gold Second Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 65; Scott Gold Second Mot. Dismiss, ECF No. 68.) Plaintiff responded in opposition to both motions (ECF No. 71) and Doris replied on June 4, 2018 (ECF No. 74). The time for Scott to reply has passed, and therefore both Defendants' motions are ripe for review, and the Court will turn to their disposition.

         II. Standard

         A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) is a test of the Court's personal jurisdiction over the defendant. “[W]hen, as here, the court addresses the question [of personal jurisdiction] on the basis only of motion papers, supporting legal memoranda and the relevant allegations of a complaint, the burden on the plaintiff is simply to make a prima facie showing of a sufficient jurisdictional basis to survive the jurisdictional challenge.” New Wellington Fin. Corp. v. Flagship Resort Dev. Corp., 416 F.3d 290, 294 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         III. Analysis

         The Court will first discuss whether it may exercise personal jurisdiction over Scott and Doris and then why, considering the closeness of that question, it will transfer the case to the Southern District of Florida, where jurisdiction over the Defendants is more clearly proper.

         a. Persona ...


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