Gaddis v. Century International Corp et al
ORDER granting 41 Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction by Century International Corp., James H. Deans. The Clerk is directed to terminate Century International Corp. and James H. Deans as defendants to this action. Signed by Judge Vanessa L. Bryant on 6/15/11. (Engel, J.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
CENTURY INTERNATIONAL CORP.,
JAMES H. DEANS, ATTORNEY AND
TRANS UNION LLC,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
June 15, 2011
RULING GRANTING DEFENDANTS CENTURY INTERNATIONAL, CORP.
AND JAMES H. DEANS’ MOTION TO DISMISS FOR
LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION [Doc. #41]
I. INTRODUCTION AND FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS
The plaintiff, Esther Gaddis (hereinafter “Gaddis”), filed this action pro se
against Century International Corp. (hereinafter “Century”), James H. Deans
(hereinafter “Deans”), and Trans Union, LLC (hereinafter “Trans Union”). The
Plaintiff invokes this Court’s jurisdiction pursuant to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15
U.S.C. § 1681; the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1692; and Conn.
Gen. Stat. § 21a-1. Gaddis claims that she was evicted from an apartment in Utah
owned by Century through an eviction proceeding instituted by Deans, its attorney.
Although the factual allegations set forth in the complaint are not entirely clear, it
appears that Gaddis is asserting that the eviction was erroneous because she paid
her rent in full and/or she was justified in vacating the apartment because Century
maintained it in a dangerous condition that created a fire hazard. Gaddis alleges that
Century and Deans then caused the eviction to be reported on her credit reports with
Trans Union, Experian, and Equifax, even though they knew that the eviction was
unjustified. As to Trans Union, Gaddis claims that this defendant failed to delete
information regarding the eviction from her credit report even though it knew the
information to be inaccurate.
Century and Deans (hereinafter collectively referred to as “the Defendants”)
have moved pursuant to Rule 12(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to
dismiss Gaddis’ complaint as against them for lack of personal jurisdiction.1 [Doc.
#41]. Century is a corporation incorporated in Utah with its principal place of
business in Utah, and Deans is a resident of Utah and is in good standing with the
Utah State Bar Association to practice law in Utah. The Defendants contend that this
Court lacks personal jurisdiction over them pursuant to Connecticut’s long arm
statutes, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-59b and Conn. Gen. Stat. § 33-929(f), and under a due
process analysis, because they do not transact business in Connecticut and the acts
that Gaddis complains of have no connection to Connecticut. They explain that, on
or about April 14, 2005, Century, through its attorney Deans, filed a complaint for
eviction in the Third District Court of Utah, Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City
Department (hereinafter “the Utah Court”) against Gaddis and her husband for
defaulting in rent payments for their Utah apartment. Pursuant to Utah Code
Annotated § 78B-6-811, the Utah Court entered judgment on May 9, 2005 against
Gaddis and her husband for unpaid rent in the amount of $214, treble damages in the
amount of $1,404, court costs in the amount of $28, and attorney’s fees in the amount
Trans Union is not a party to the instant motion. Trans Union filed an
answer to Gaddis’ complaint on November 23, 2010. [Doc. #16].
of $150, for a total judgment of $1,796. For the reasons set forth below, the
Defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction is GRANTED.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW
To successfully defeat a Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the Court has personal
jurisdiction over the defendant. Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. v. Robertson-Ceco
Corp., 84 F.3d 560, 566 (2d Cir.1996). “At this stage of the proceedings, the plaintiffs
must make out only a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction through their own
affidavits and supporting materials and all affidavits and pleadings must be
construed in the plaintiffs’ favor.” Edberg v. Neogen Corp., 17 F. Supp. 2d 104, 110
(D. Conn. 1998) (citing CutCo Industries, Inc. v. Naughton, 806 F.2d 361, 365 (2d Cir.
“[T]he amenability of a foreign corporation to suit in a federal court in a
diversity action is determined in accordance with the law of the state where the court
sits . . . .” Arrowsmith v. United Press Int'l, 320 F.2d 219, 223 (2d Cir. 1963) (in banc);
accord Hoffritz for Cutlery, Inc. v. Amajac, Ltd., 763 F.2d 55, 57 (2d Cir. 1985).
Accordingly, this Court applies the law of the State of Connecticut. In order to
ascertain whether a court has personal jurisdiction, Connecticut applies a two-step
analysis. A court must first look to the forum State’s long-arm statute and determine
whether that statute reaches the foreign corporation. If the long-arm statute
authorizes personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the court must then decide
whether the exercise of jurisdiction over that party offends due process. Bensmiller
v. E.I. Dupont de Nemours & Co., 47 F.3d 79, 81 (2d Cir. 1995) (citing Greene v. ShaNa-Na, 637 F.Supp. 591, 59 (D. Conn. 1986)).
A. Connecticut’s Long-Arm Statute
Connecticut’s long-arm statute applicable to foreign corporations states, in
Every foreign corporation shall be subject to suit in this state, by a
resident of this state or by a person having a usual place of business in
this state, whether or not such foreign corporation is transacting or has
transacted business in this state and whether or not it is engaged
exclusively in interstate or foreign commerce, on any cause of action
arising as follows: (1) Out of any contract made in this state or to be
performed in this state; (2) out of any business solicited in this state by
mail or otherwise if the corporation has repeatedly so solicited
business, whether the orders or offers relating thereto were accepted
within or without the state; (3) out of the production, manufacture or
distribution of goods by such corporation with the reasonable
expectation that such goods are to be used or consumed in this state
and are so used or consumed, regardless of how or where the goods
were produced, manufactured, marketed or sold or whether or not
through the medium of independent contractors or dealers; or (4) out of
tortious conduct in this state, whether arising out of repeated activity or
single acts, and whether arising out of misfeasance or nonfeasance.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 33-929(f). Similarly, as to individuals, Connecticut statute
provides, in relevant part:
[A] court may exercise personal jurisdiction over any nonresident
individual, . . . who in person or through an agent: (1) Transacts any
business within the state; (2) commits a tortious act within the state,
except as to a cause of action for defamation of character arising from
the act; (3) commits a tortious act outside the state causing injury to a
person or property within the state, except as to a cause of action for
defamation of character arising from the act, if such person or agent (A)
regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other persistent
course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or
consumed or services rendered, in the state, or (B) expects or should
reasonably expect the act to have consequences in the state and derives
substantial revenue from interstate or international commerce; (4) owns,
uses or possesses any real property situated within the state; or (5)
uses a computer, . . . or a computer network, . . . located within the state.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-59b.
In this case, Gaddis has not met her burden of making a prima facie showing
that this Court has personal jurisdiction over the Defendants. This case involves a
proceeding brought against Gaddis and her husband in Utah State Court in 2005 to
evict her from her apartment in Utah for defaulting on rent payments. It does not
arise from a contract made in Connecticut, business solicited in Connecticut, the
production or manufacture of goods to be used in Connecticut, or any tortious
conduct committed in Connecticut. Likewise, there is no evidence that Century, a
Utah corporation, and Deans, a Utah attorney, conduct any business whatsoever in
Connecticut. Therefore, this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over the Defendants
under Connecticut’s long-arm statute.
In her objection to the Defendants’ motion to dismiss [Doc. #42], Gaddis fails
to address the issue at hand. Instead, she argues the merits of the case by asserting
facts in support of her contention that the Utah Court erroneously entered judgment
against her. She claims that she had vacated her Utah apartment in February 2005,
three months before the Utah Court entered judgment against her, that she was
never properly served in that case, and that various deposits and rent overpayments
were never returned to her by Century. Even if true, however, these facts do not
establish this Court’s jurisdiction over the Defendants in the instant action. The
proper forum for Gaddis to challenge the judgment entered against her was in Utah,
the State where it was entered, not federal district court in Connecticut, a State which
has no connection to the rent dispute giving rise to Gaddis’ complaint.
B. Due Process Inquiry
Even if jurisdiction could be exercised over the Defendants under
Connecticut’s long-arm statute, the Court would next have to determine whether the
exercise of jurisdiction in this case would comport with due process. See In re
Helicopter Crash near Wendle Creek, 485 F. Supp. 2d 47, 51 (D. Conn. 2007). “The
due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment permits a state to exercise
personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant with whom it has certain
minimum contacts . . . such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend
traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.” Kernan v. Kurz-Hastings, 175
F.3d 236, 242 (2d Cir. 1999) (citing Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 788 (1984)).
The Supreme Court has established a two-pronged test for determining
whether a court has personal jurisdiction over a non-resident corporation. See
International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 362 U.S. 310, 314 (1945)). First, the
corporation must have certain “minimum contacts” or ties with the forum State. Id.
Second, it must not “offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice” to
subject the corporation to litigation in the forum State. Id.
There are two types of situations in which a court may exercise jurisdiction
over a foreign defendant, and the analysis differs depending upon which type of
situation is being considered. The first situation is when a court exercises personal
jurisdiction over a foreign defendant in a suit “arising out of or related to the
defendant’s contacts with the forum,” which is referred to as “specific jurisdiction.”
Helicopteros Nacionales v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 n.8 (1984). By contrast, the second
situation occurs when a court exercises personal jurisdiction over a foreign
defendant in an action not arising out of or relating to the defendant’s contacts with
the forum, which is referred to as “general jurisdiction.” Id. at 414 n.9. However,
where the action does not arise out of or relate to a foreign defendant’s contacts with
the forum state, the defendant’s contacts with that state must be “continuous and
systematic” in order for the court to exercise jurisdiction over him. Id. at 415.
Here, Gaddis’ claims against Century and Deans must be dismissed under
either analysis. As discussed previously, there is no evidence that Century and
Deans have any contacts whatsoever with the State of Connecticut. Therefore, the
exercise of jurisdiction over them would “offend traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.” Kernan, 175 F.3d at 242.
Based on the above reasoning, the Court concludes that it lacks personal
jurisdiction over the Defendants. Accordingly, their motion to dismiss [Doc. #41] is
GRANTED. The Clerk is directed to terminate Century and Deans as defendants to
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Vanessa L. Bryant
United States District Judge
Dated at Hartford, Connecticut: June 15, 2011.
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