United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander United States District Judge.
tort case, plaintiffs Steven Krawatsky (“Rabbi
K”) and Shira Krawatsky (collectively, the
“Krawatskys”), filed a 57-count Complaint against
multiple defendants: Rachel Avrunin and Joel Arunin
(collectively, the “Avrunins”); Sharon
Avrunin-Becker and Scott Becker (collectively, the
“Beckers”); and Chaim Levin. ECF 1 (the
“Complaint”). In the Complaint, plaintiffs
contend, inter alia, that defendants engaged in a
scheme “to damage Rabbi K and destroy his
reputation” by false and scandalous accusations that he
committed sexual child abuse, disseminated by way of social
media, website domains, media outlets, and communications
with multiple third parties. See Id. ¶ 25. In
particular, plaintiffs claim that defendants have falsely and
repeatedly alleged that Rabbi K sexually molested the
Avrunins' son (“B.A.”) and the Beckers'
son (“S.B.”). See Id. ¶¶ 6-30.
And, they have engaged Levin to disseminate falsehoods on
social media. Id. ¶¶ 26-29.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1332, plaintiffs assert subject matter
jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship. See
id. ¶ 5 (“Jurisdiction is proper with this
Court due to the diversity of citizenship of the parties, who
reside in Maryland, Georgia, and New York, and the amount in
controversy exceeds Seventy Five Thousand Dollars ($75,
000.00)”). The Complaint alleges numerous claims, all
under Maryland law, including defamation, invasion of
privacy, tortious interference with economic relations,
tortious interference with contractual relations, loss of
consortium, intentional infliction of emotional distress, as
well as conspiracy and aiding and abetting. See id.
¶¶ 31-387. Plaintiffs also seek injunctive relief,
as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Id.
joint motion, the Avrunins and Levin move to dismiss the
Complaint, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2), for lack of
personal jurisdiction in Maryland. ECF 5 (the
“Motion”). In addition, all defendants move to
dismiss under Fed R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3), for improper venue, or
to transfer venue to the Southern Division of the United
States District Court for the District of Maryland, pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1404. And, under Rule 12(b)(6), all
defendants move to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. Plaintiffs oppose the Motion.
ECF 8 (the “Opposition”). Defendants have not
filed a reply, and the time for doing so has passed.
See Local Rule 105.2.
matters stand out. Curiously, plaintiffs, who are domiciled
in Maryland, claim diversity jurisdiction, even though the
Beckers are also domiciled in Maryland. And, equally curious,
the defense focuses on the claim of lack of personal
jurisdiction as to Levin and the Avrunins, without raising a
claim that the court lacks diversity jurisdiction because the
Beckers are domiciled in Maryland. It is a hornbook principle
of federal jurisdiction that, to invoke diversity
jurisdiction, the parties on each side much be completely
hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, the Complaint
must be dismissed, without prejudice, pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1), for lack of subject matter
husband and wife, allege that they are residents of Baltimore
County, Maryland. ECF 1, ¶ 1; Id. ¶ 6.
They claim that “Rabbi K has been a highly loved and
respected teacher, counselor, and tutor for many
years.” Id. ¶ 10. He “has been a
teacher for 19 years, ” having taught “for almost
15 years” at a well-respected Jewish day school in
Baltimore County, Maryland. Id. ¶ 8. In
addition, “[f]rom 2010 to 2015, Rabbi K was also a head
counselor at Camp Shoresh, a summer camp for children in
Adamstown, Frederick County, Maryland.” Id.
¶ 9. Plaintiffs, who are the parents of four children,
also assert that, “[u]ntil the summer of 2015, there
had never been any allegation made that [Rabbi K] had harmed
a child in any way.” Id. ¶ 10.
Avrunins reside in Dekalb County, Georgia. Id.
¶ 2. They are the parents of B.A., “who attended
Camp Shoresh from June 22, 2015 through July 17, 2015.”
Id. ¶ 11. Plaintiffs assert that “BA was
in Rabbi K's division of over 300 campers at Camp Shoresh
during that camp session.” Id.
Beckers are residents of Montgomery County, Maryland.
Id. ¶ 3. They are the parents of S.B, who
“attended Camp Shoresh in the summers of 2014 and
2015.” Id. ¶ 13. Plaintiffs claim that
Joel Avrunin and Sharon Avrunin-Becker are “brother and
sister.” Id. ¶ 12. It follows that
“[S.B.] and [S.A.] are first cousins.”
to the Complaint, on August 13, 2015, B.A. “made an
allegation of sexual abuse by Rabbi K to his parents,
Defendants Rachel Avrunin and Joel Avrunin.”
Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiffs maintain that B.A.'s
allegation was false and that “[a]ll three of the
individuals whom [B.A.] said were present during the alleged
abuse denied said acts ever occurred.” Id.
B.A.'s allegation was “reported by Defendant Joel
Avrunin to the head of Camp Shoresh, Rabbi David
Finkelstein.” Id. ¶ 15. Also, the
“allegation was brought to the attention of the
Frederick County Sheriff's Office and the Frederick
County Department of Social Services.” Id.
¶ 16. In early September 2015, personnel at these county
agencies interviewed Rabbi K and commenced an investigation.
Id. ¶ 17. During Rabbi K's interview with
the county sheriff, “Rabbi K flatly denied the
allegations” made by B.A. and “agreed to submit
to a polygraph examination, or ‘lie detector' test,
without hesitation.” Id. According to
plaintiffs, Rabbi K “passed the test without
question.” Id. And, at the conclusion of the
investigation, “the Frederick County Sheriff's
Office declined to pursue any charges against Rabbi K.”
Id. ¶ 18.
maintain that, in the subsequent months, the Avrunins
“continued to insist that their son was sexually abused
by Rabbi K” and they “engaged in a calculated and
coordinated campaign to destroy Rabbi K's
reputation.” Id. ¶¶ 19-20. The
Complaint asserts that the Avrunins took the following
actions, id. ¶ 21:
a. Contacting Rabbi K's employer . . . and demanding that
he be fired, alleging that he ...