United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Cranford, plaintiff, filed suit against defendants Leslie
Austin and Tennessee Steel Haulers, Inc. (“TSH”)
on September 18, 2017. See ECF 1 (Complaint). He
alleges that on February 8, 2016, in Fairfax County,
Virginia, Austin negligently operated a vehicle for TSH and
collided with plaintiff's vehicle. Id.
¶¶ 5-7, 10-11. Cranford asserts one claim
of negligence against Austin, one claim of vicarious
liability against TSH, Austin's employer, and he seeks
$1, 000, 000 in damages. Id. ¶¶ 5-11.
Jurisdiction is premised on diversity of citizenship.
See ECF 1 at 2; 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
have moved to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), claiming
lack of personal jurisdiction, and pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(3), claiming improper venue. See ECF 4
(“Motion”). Cranford opposes the Motion.
See ECF 7 (amended opposition); ECF 7-2 (legal
memorandum) (collectively, “Opposition”). He
argues that this Court has personal jurisdiction and that
venue is proper. But, in the alternative, he requests a
transfer to the Eastern District of Virginia. ECF 7-2.
Defendants replied. See ECF 8 (“Reply”).
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I conclude
that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction and that venue is
improper. Therefore, I shall transfer the case to the Eastern
District of Virginia.
resides in Odenton, Maryland. ECF 1, ¶ 1. Austin resides
in Houston, Texas. Id. ¶ 2. TSH “is a
foreign corporation not registered with the State of
Maryland, ” with its principal place of business in
Tennessee. Id. ¶ 3, 10.
to Cranford, on February 8, 2016, while Austin was an
employee or agent of TSH, Austin negligently changed lanes
and hit the side of Cranford's vehicle. ECF 1,
¶¶ 5-7, 10-11. Cranford claims that the accident
occurred near an intersection in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Id. ¶ 5. He alleges, inter alia, that
he suffered severe and permanent bodily injury as a result of
the crash. Id. ¶ 8. Plaintiff seeks judgment in
the amount of $1, 000, 000. Id. at 3.
maintains that TSH “advertises itself as a national
transportation company” and has “contracts for
pick-ups and deliveries in the State of Maryland.” ECF
1, ¶ 3. In his Opposition, plaintiff asserts that
TSH's “website contains a section where drivers can
look for potential freight opportunities.” ECF 7-2 at
4. As an exhibit to the Opposition, plaintiff included an
image of the website on November 17, 2017, showing that TSH
listed two freight opportunities originating in Maryland that
day. ECF 7-3 at 1-2. He also contends that “[o]ther
dates have listed more and less routes originating and/or
terminating in the State of Maryland.” ECF 7-2 at 4.
Motion for lack of personal jurisdiction is predicated on
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). ECF 4 at 1. Under Rule 12(b)(2), the
burden is “on the plaintiff ultimately to prove the
existence of a ground for jurisdiction by a preponderance of
the evidence.” Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673,
676 (4th Cir. 1989); see Universal Leather, LLC v. Koro
AR, S.A., 773 F.3d 553, 558 (4th Cir. 2014).
Rule 12(b)(2) challenge raises an issue for the court to
resolve, generally as a preliminary matter.”
Grayson v. Anderson, 816 F.3d 262, 267 (4th Cir.
2016). When “the existence of jurisdiction turns on
disputed factual questions the court may resolve the
[jurisdictional] challenge on the basis of a separate
evidentiary hearing, or may defer ruling pending receipt at
trial of evidence relevant to the jurisdictional
question.” Combs, 886 F.2d at 676. In its
discretion, a court may also permit discovery as to the
jurisdictional issue. See Mylan Laboratories, Inc. v.
Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 64 (4th Cir. 1993). However,
neither discovery nor an evidentiary hearing is required in
order for the court to resolve a motion under Rule 12(b)(2).
See generally 5B C. Wright & A. Miller,
Federal Practice & Procedure § 1351 at
274-313 (3d ed.) (“Wright & Miller”).
plaintiff's burden in establishing jurisdiction varies
according to the posture of a case and the evidence that has
been presented to the court.” Grayson, 816
F.3d at 268. If the district court addresses the question of
personal jurisdiction as a preliminary matter, it may rule
solely on the basis of motion papers, supporting legal
memoranda, affidavits, and the allegations in the complaint.
Consulting Engineers Corp. v. Geometric Ltd., 561
F.3d 273, 276 (4th Cir. 2009); see Grayson, 816 F.3d
at 268. In that circumstance, the “plaintiff need only
make ‘a prima facie showing of personal
jurisdiction to survive the jurisdictional
challenge.'” Grayson, 816 F.3d at 268
(quoting Combs, 886 F.2d at 676). “When
determining whether a plaintiff has made the requisite
prima facie showing, the court must take the
allegations and available evidence relating to personal
jurisdiction in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Grayson, 816 F.3d at 268; see
Carefirst of Maryland, Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Ctrs.,
Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir. 2003). But,
“district courts are not required . . . to look solely
to the plaintiff's proof in drawing those
inferences.” Mylan Laboratories, 2 F.3d at 62.
“‘[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).
claim venue is improper in Maryland, under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1391. ECF 4 at 1. In the Fourth
Circuit, when a challenge to venue is raised, the plaintiff
bears the burden of demonstrating that venue is appropriate.
Bartholomew v. Virginia Chiropractors Association,
612 F.2d 812, 816 (4th Cir. 1979), cert. denied, 446
U.S. 938 (1980), overruled on other grounds by Union
Labor Life Ins. Co. v. Pireno, 458 U.S. 119 (1982);
accord Tinoco v. Thesis Painting, Inc., GJH-16-752,
2017 WL 52554, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 3, 2017); Jones v.
Koons Auto. Inc., 752 F.Supp.2d 670, 679 (D. Md. 2010).
court may hold an evidentiary hearing and “freely
consider evidence outside the pleadings.” Sucampo
Pharm., Inc. v. Astellas Pharma, Inc., 471 F.3d 544, 550
(4th Cir. 2006); see also Aggarao v. MOL Ship Mgmt.
Co., 675 F.3d 355, 365-56 (4th Cir. 2012) (“On a
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(3), a court is permitted
to consider evidence outside the pleadings.”);
Taylor v. Shreeji Swami, Inc., PWG-16-3787, 2017 WL
1832206, at *1 (D. Md. May 8, 2017) (same); Convergence
Mgmt. Assocs., Inc. v. Callender, TDC-15-4015, 2016 WL
6662253, at *2 (D. Md. Nov. 10, 2016) (same). However, if the
court does not hold an evidentiary hearing, “the
plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing that venue is
proper.” CareFirst, Inc. v. Taylor, 235
F.Supp.3d 724, 732 (D. Md. 2017) (citing Mitrano v.
Hawes, 377 F.3d 402, 405 (4th Cir. 2004)
(“CareFirst”). “In assessing
whether there has been a prima facie venue showing, [the
court views] the facts in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff.” Aggarao, 675 F.3d at 366.
“‘it is possible for venue to be proper in more
than one judicial district,' the question is not whether
a given district is the best venue, but whether the events or
omissions that occurred there are ‘sufficiently
substantial.'” CareFirst Inc., 235
F.Supp.3d. at 732 (quoting Mitrano, 377 F.3d at
405). And, in considering “whether events or omissions
are sufficiently substantial to support venue . . ., a court
should not focus only on those matters that are in dispute or
that directly led to the filing of the action.”
Mitrano, 377 F.3d at 406 (citation omitted).
Instead, “it should review ‘the entire sequence
of events underlying the claim.'” Id.;
accord Taylor, 2017 WL 1832206, at *1;
Callender, 2016 WL 6662253, at *2.
Opposition is not a model of clarity. In a subsection titled
“Venue is Proper in this
Jurisdiction, ” Cranford contends, ECF 7-2 at 2:
As all parties are either citizens of the United States or
corporate entities organized under its laws, there is no
question that a federal court possesses personal jurisdiction
over any party. In diversity cases, the law recognizes that a
given federal jurisdiction may be called to adjudicate a
dispute between parties in which the hosting
state/jurisdiction may not have personal jurisdiction. Of
course, there is still the question of venue in diversity
Cranford begins his venue analysis. ECF 7-2 at 2. In the
midst of that analysis, plaintiff cites Maryland's
long-arm statute and identifies the provisions that he
believes confer personal jurisdiction in this Court. See
Id. at 4. Plaintiff cites no case law in support of his
personal jurisdiction claims, beyond drawing a distinction
between the case at hand and one case that defendants cite in
their Motion. See Id. at 5. According to plaintiff,
“it would be legally and ethically problematic to
allege that [this Court] does not have personal jurisdiction
. . . .” Id. at 4.
Civ. P. 4(k)(1) authorizes a federal district court to
exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant in accordance
with the law of the state in which the district court is
located. See Carefirst of Maryland, Inc., 334 F.3d
at 396. Therefore, “to assert personal jurisdiction
over a nonresident defendant, two conditions must be
satisfied: (1) the exercise of jurisdiction must be
authorized under the state's long-arm statute; and (2)
the exercise of jurisdiction must comport with the due
process requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Maryland's Long-Arm Statute
long-arm statute is codified at Md. Code (2013 Repl. Vol.,
2017 Supp.), §§ 6-101 to 104 of the Courts &
Judicial Proceedings Article. (“C.J.”)
C.J. § 6-103(a): “If jurisdiction over a person is
based solely upon this section, he may be sued only on a
cause of action arising from any act enumerated in
this section.” (Emphasis added). C.J. §
6-103(b) authorizes ...