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Poteat v. Gibson

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 6, 2018

ANTOINE POTEAT, Plaintiff,
v.
DETECTIVE LEE GIBSON, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG, JUDGE

         Plaintiff Antoine Poteat has filed this action against Defendant Lee Gibson, a detective of the Charlottesville, Virginia Police Department, for unlawful seizure and deprivation of liberty in violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Pending before the Court is Gibson's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), 12(b)(3) and 12(b)(6). Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 18, 2013, Poteat, who was living in Charlottesville, Virginia, was the victim of a burglary at his home. The masked intruders shot Poteat in the leg and ankle and stole money from his residence. Poteat called 911 when the burglars left, and officers from the Charlottesville Police Department arrived at Poteat's residence. When asked to identify the burglars, Poteat told the police that he was unable to observe their faces and did not know who they were. However, the police continued to question Poteat and even refused to let emergency medical personnel into the home to treat Poteat, who was bleeding, because he had not identified the perpetrators. At some point after the questioning, the officers conducted a warrantless search of the residence and brought a drug-sniffing dog to the premises, but they found no drugs. During this search, however, the officers discovered a firearm. Poteat was not arrested at that time.

         In November 2013, Poteat and his family moved to Maryland. Then, on February 25, 2014, Gibson requested a warrant from a Virginia court for Poteat's arrest for illegal possession of a firearm and controlled substances on June 18, 2013, the day that Poteat's residence was burglarized. At that time, Poteat was unaware that the warrant had been issued.

         On May 17, 2014, Poteat was pulled over by a police officer while driving in Maryland. Based on the outstanding Virginia arrest warrant, of which Poteat was still unaware, the officer arrested him. Poteat was jailed for 12 days in Maryland before he was extradited to Virginia to face the charges. Poteat remained detained in Virginia until July 10, 2014, when the charges against him were dismissed. Poteat alleges that Gibson obtained the warrant even though he knew the charges were false, because Poteat's firearm was lawfully registered in his name and the officers had found no drugs during their search of Poteat's residence on June 18, 2013.

         Poteat filed his Complaint in this Court on July 10, 2017. Poteat asserts claims against Gibson under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Specifically, Poteat alleges that by obtaining a warrant based on false allegations, Gibson violated his rights to be free from an unreasonable seizure and to due process of law.

         DISCUSSION

         In his Motion to Dismiss, Gibson asserts that this Court must dismiss the case (1) under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), because it lacks personal jurisdiction over Gibson; (2) under Rule 12(b)(3), because the District of Maryland is not the proper venue; and (3) under Rule 12(b)(6), because Poteat's claims are barred by the statute of limitations.

         I.Personal Jurisdiction

         Gibson first asserts that this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over him because he has insufficient contacts with Maryland. At the pleading stage, the plaintiff must make a prima facie showing that the defendant is properly subject to the court's jurisdiction. See Mylan Labs. Inc. v. Akzo, N.V., 2 F.3d 56, 59-60 (4th Cir. 1993). In evaluating the plaintiffs showing, the court must accept the plaintiffs allegations as true, and it must draw all reasonable inferences and resolve any factual conflicts in the plaintiffs favor. Id. at 60. The court may consider evidence outside the pleadings in resolving a Rule 12(b)(2) motion. See CoStar Realty Info., Inc. v. Meissner, 604 F.Supp.2d 757, 763-64 (D. Md. 2009).

         Gibson, a police officer in Charlottesville, Virginia, asserts that his contacts with Maryland are insufficient to allow this Court to exercise personal jurisdiction over him. A district court's exercise of personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant must satisfy both the long-arm statute of the forum state and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Carefirst of Md., Inc. v. Carefirst Pregnancy Centers, Inc., 334 F.3d 390, 396 (4th Cir. 2003). Poteat alleges that the Maryland officers who arrested and jailed him were acting as "tacit agents" of Gibson. Compl. at 2, ECF No. 1. Thus, Poteat relies on the provision of the Maryland long-arm statute that authorizes jurisdiction over a party who, either "directly or by an agent," "[c]auses tortious injury in the State by an act or omission in the State." Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 6-103(b)(3) (West 2018). Because courts have interpreted the Maryland long-arm statute to reach as far as the Constitution allows, the statutory and due process components of the personal jurisdiction analysis merge. ALSScan, Inc. v. Digital Serv. Consultants, Inc., 293 F.3d 707, 710 (4th Cir. 2002).

         The due process analysis requires a showing that Gibson has sufficient "minimum contacts" with Maryland such that "maintenance of the suit [in this state] does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). Courts distinguish between two types of personal jurisdiction: general and specific. General jurisdiction offers a path to personal jurisdiction when the party has affiliations with the state that are "so continuous and systematic as to render [it] essentially at home in the forum State." Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 919 (2011). Specific jurisdiction provides jurisdiction "over a defendant in a suit arising out of or related to the defendant's contacts with the forum." Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 n.8 (1984). Here, Poteat does not allege that Gibson maintains "continuous and systematic contacts" with the forum state, so he must establish specific jurisdiction over the defendant. See Id. at 416.

         In order for a court to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the defendant must "purposefully avail[] itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State," and its "conduct and connection with the forum State" must be "such that [it] should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there." World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson,444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980). These requirements are satisfied if the defendant purposefully directed its activities at the residents of the forum state, and the cause of action "results from alleged injuries ...


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