United States District Court, D. Maryland
XINIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Subodh Pandit brings this intra-family dispute, alleging
defamation and related claims. ECF No. 1. Defendants moved to
dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, or alternatively,
for failure to state a claim. ECF Nos. 8, 13, 20. The motions
to dismiss are fully briefed, and the Court rules under Local
Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary. For the reasons
that follow, the Court dismisses this action for lack of
personal jurisdiction and denies as moot the remainder of
Complaint centrally concerns an alleged “malicious
campaign to smear [Plaintiff's] reputation”
orchestrated by Defendants, his extended family. ECF No. 1
¶ 9. Plaintiff's brother, Sudhir Pandit, and his
brother's wife, Dorothy Pandit, (together, the
“Pandit Defendants”) wrote four allegedly
defamatory emails and letters about Plaintiff. Id.
¶¶ 11-20. Dorothy Pandit's sister, Cathaline
Samuel, and her husband, Meshach Samuel, (together, the
“Samuel Defendants”) wrote an additional three
allegedly defamatory letters about Plaintiff. Id.
¶¶ 15-16. Based on these communications, Plaintiff
has filed this action against Defendants for defamation and
related claims. ECF No. 1.
little has been averred about any meaningful connection
between Defendants and the State of Maryland. All Defendants
live in Arkansas (id. ¶¶ 2-5), and
Defendants sent each of the letters and emails from Arkansas.
ECF No. 8 at 1; ECF No. 13 at 9. One Defendant sent one email
to “numerous recipients, ” including four people
located in Maryland (ECF No. 1 ¶ 11), and another sent a
letter to a recipient in Maryland. Id. ¶ 15.
The Pandit Defendants moved out of Maryland over thirty years
ago, and they, along with the Samuel Defendants, have
maintained only sporadic contact over the years with
Maryland, none of which is the subject of the Complaint. ECF
No. 14-1 ¶¶ 3-5; ECF No. 18-1 ¶ 11. Not
surprisingly, Defendants contend that this Court lacks
personal jurisdiction over them.
Standard of Review
may not hear any claim against parties for whom personal
jurisdiction is lacking. Lightfoot v. Cendant Mortg.
Corp., 137 S.Ct. 553, 562 (2017). Pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the
burden of establishing jurisdiction by a preponderance of the
evidence. Carefirst of Maryland, Inc. v. Carefirst
Pregnancy Ctrs., Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir.
2003). The precise question is whether the court possesses
jurisdiction at the time the claim arose. Glynn v. EDO
Corp., 536 F.Supp.2d 595, 606 n.15 (D. Md. 2008). Where,
as here, the Court considers the question of personal
jurisdiction without an evidentiary hearing, “the
plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of personal
jurisdiction, ” taking all disputed facts and
reasonable inferences in his favor. Id.; see
also Aphena Pharma Solutions-Maryland, LLC v. BioZone Labs.,
Inc., 912 F.Supp.2d 309, 314 (D. Md. 2012). If
“the facts present even a close question” as to
the lack of personal jurisdiction, the court should dismiss
or transfer the case. Dring v. Sullivan, 423
F.Supp.2d 540, 549 (D. Md. 2006).
federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a
defendant either “in the manner provided by state
law” pursuant to the state's long arm statute, or
where the defendant is “at home” in the forum
state. Carefirst, 334 F.3d at 396 (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A)); Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571
U.S. 117, 127 (2014). The former is known as “specific
jurisdiction, ” while the latter is termed
“general jurisdiction.” Plaintiff invokes both
specific and general jurisdiction, so the Court addresses
each in turn.
“specific jurisdiction, ” the plaintiff must
prove that jurisdiction: (1) is authorized by the forum
state's long-arm statute, and (2) comports with the due
process requirements inherent in the Fourteenth Amendment of
the United States Constitution. Christian Sci. Bd. of
Dir. of First Church of Christ, Scientist v. Nolan, 259
F.3d 209, 215 (4th Cir. 2001). Maryland's long-arm
statute is co-extensive with federal due process limits.
Mackey v. Compass Mktg., Inc., 391 Md. 117, 141 n.6
long-arm statute sets forth several enumerated avenues to
confer personal jurisdiction on an out-of-state defendant.
Md. Code, Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 6-103(a); Am. Bank
Holdings, Inc. v. Grange Mut. Cas. Co., No. DKC 09-2228,
2010 WL 2302356, at *3 (D. Md. June 7, 2010). The parties
direct this Court to two such avenues: (1) where a defendant
“[c]auses tortious injury in the State by an act or
omission in the State;” § 6-103(b)(3), or (2)
where a defendant “[c]auses tortious injury in the
State or outside of the State by an act or omission outside
the State if he . . . engages in any other persistent course
of conduct in the State.” § 6-103(b)(4).
Section 6-103(b)(3) to apply, both the tortious injury and
activity must occur in Maryland. Dring, 423
F.Supp.2d at 546. Here, the alleged defamatory letters and
emails were sent from Arkansas, not Maryland. ECF No. 8 at 1;
ECF No. 13 at 9. Thus, the “tortious act”
occurred in Arkansas. See Dring, 423 F.Supp.2d at
546 (emails); Craig v. Gen. Fin. Corp. of Ill., 504
F.Supp. 1033, 1037 (D. Md. 1980) (letters). Section
6-103(b)(3) does not apply. See Dring, 423 F.Supp.2d
nonetheless contends that certain nonspecific discussions
which supposedly took place in Maryland satisfy Section
6-103(b)(3). This simply is not so. The tortious activity
arises exclusively from allegedly defamatory emails and
letters sent from Arkansas, not some nonspecific discussions.
The Court further notes that the only discussion described in
the Complaint with any specificity had occurred in 2012, well
beyond the statute of limitations. See ECF No. 1
¶¶ 8-20; Long v. Welch & Rushe, Inc.,
28 F.Supp.3d 446, 456 (D. Md. 2014) (noting Maryland's
one year statute of limitations for defamation claims);
Shulman v. Rosenberg, No. 1889, Sept. Term, 2016,
2018 WL 286404, at *5 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. Jan. 4, 2018),
cert. denied, 458 Md. 597 (2018) (noting