Jaquez v. Holmes et al
ORDER. For the reasons set forth in the attached, the case is hereby TRANSFERRED under 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a) to the Northern District of West Virginia and the (ECF No. 12 ) motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction is denied as moot. Signed by Judge Michael P. Shea on 4/28/2021. (Gait, Emily)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
ANGEL JACQUEZ, ADMINISTRATOR TO THE
ESTATE OF JOHNATHAN BENJAMIN-ADAMS
No. 3:20-CV-01604 (MPS)
STEVEN HOLMES AND DENISE HOLMES
RULING ON MOTION TO DISMISS
Plaintiff Angel Jacquez, foster parent and administrator to the estate of Johnathan
Benjamin-Adams (“Johnny”), brings this action against Defendants Steven and Denise Holmes,
relatives of Plaintiff’s wife, alleging that Defendants’ negligence resulted in Johnny’s death. ECF
No. 1 at 3. Johnny, fourteen years old when he died and a resident of West Hartford,
Connecticut, had been sent by Plaintiff to live with Defendants in West Virginia, where he was
allegedly attacked and killed by one of Defendants’ children. Id. at 2-3. Defendants move to
dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction. ECF No. 12. For the reasons set
forth below, Plaintiff has failed to satisfy Connecticut’s long-arm statute. Nevertheless, I
exercise my discretion to transfer this case to the Northern District of West Virginia under 28
U.S.C. § 1406(a).
The following facts are drawn from the complaint, the Defendants’ affidavits, and other
submissions on the motion to dismiss, which may be considered at this stage in determining
whether personal jurisdiction exists. See infra Part IIa.
Johnny, a minor, lived with Plaintiff and his wife, Janice, in West Hartford, Connecticut.
He began living with them from the ages of two until six years old, and was then placed in
Plaintiff’s foster care by the Department of Children and Families on April 8, 2016. ECF No. 1 at
¶ 6. Plaintiff and Janice intended to formally adopt Johnny, and he remained under their care—
involved in sports and community activities. Id. ¶¶ 6, 12. In early 2020, when COVID-19 cases
were steadily rising in Connecticut, Plaintiff and Janice decided to send Johnny to live
temporarily with Defendants, relatives of Janice, on their multi-acre farm in West Virginia. ECF
No 1. at ¶¶ 14-18. At that time, there were zero reported positive cases of COVID-19 in the State
of West Virginia. Id. at ¶ 17. While residing with Defendants, Johnny continued to take classes
remotely and graduated from middle school. Id. at ¶ 19.
In July 2020, Johnny discovered that A.H., one of the Defendants’ children, had been
involved in a burglary. Id. at ¶ 20. Johnny threatened to tell Defendants about A.H.'s illegal
activity. Id. “Thereafter, A.H. gained access to a firearm and chased Johnny out of the house.
A.H. caught up to Johnny and brutally beat him. Finally, and most tragically, A.H. killed Johnny
with a single gunshot wound to the head.” Id. at ¶ 21. After Johnny’s death, Plaintiff was
appointed administrator of Johnny’s estate and brought this negligence action claiming that
Defendants had a duty of care to keep Johnny safe, breached that duty by failing to monitor and
supervise their son A.H., and directly and proximately caused Johnny’s injuries and death. Id. at
¶¶ 22, 26, 28, 32.
Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the entire complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P.
12(b)(2), asserting that all of Plaintiff’s allegations concern conduct that took place in West
Virginia, that Defendants have no connection to Connecticut, and, consequently, there is no basis
for this Court to assert personal jurisdiction over them. ECF No. 12-1 at 2. Defendants have
submitted affidavits in support of the motion stating that they: (1) “do not live in and have never
lived in Connecticut;” (2) live and maintain their residence in Augusta, West Virginia; (3) “do
not own any property in Connecticut;” (4) “do not transact business in Connecticut;” and (5) “do
not solicit business, or engage in any other persistent course of conduct, or derive any revenue
from goods used or consumed or services rendered, in Connecticut.” ECF Nos. 15-16.
The party asserting jurisdiction, Plaintiff in this case, bears the burden of showing that the
court has jurisdiction over the defendant when a motion to dismiss is brought under Rule
12(b)(2). Whitaker v. American Telecasting, Inc., 261 F.3d 196, 208 (2d Cir. 2001). “[T]he
nature of the plaintiff’s obligation varies depending on the procedural posture of the litigation.
Prior to discovery, a plaintiff challenged by a jurisdiction testing motion may defeat the motion
by pleading in good faith … legally sufficient allegations of jurisdiction.” Ball v. Metallurgie
Hoboken–Overpelt, S.A., 902 F.2d 194, 197 (2d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 854 (1990),
“i.e., by making a prima facie showing of jurisdiction.” Whitaker, 261 F.3d at 208 (citation and
internal quotation marks omitted). Plaintiff’s jurisdictional allegations are to be construed
liberally and any uncontroverted factually allegations are to be taken as true. Robinson v.
Overseas Military Sales Corp., 21 F.3d 502, 507 (2d Cir. 1994). Argumentative inferences,
however, will not be drawn in Plaintiff’s favor. Id.
Personal Jurisdiction Analysis
Determining a court's authority to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant involves
a two-step analysis. First, the court must determine whether exercising jurisdiction is consistent
with the long-arm statute of the state in which the court sits, Connecticut in this case. Chloe v.
Queen Bee of Beverly Hills, LLC, 616 F.3d 158, 163 (2d Cir. 2008). If the state's long-arm
statute does not allow the court to exercise personal jurisdiction, then the movant prevails. If the
state statute is satisfied, the analysis proceeds to the second step, at which the court must
determine whether the exercise of jurisdiction comports with the Fourteenth Amendment's Due
Process Clause. Id. at 164. Under the Due Process Clause, a court may exercise personal
jurisdiction over a defendant only if the defendant has enough contacts with the forum state that
exercising jurisdiction over the defendant does not “offend traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice.” Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945) (citations and
quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff asserts that this Court has personal jurisdiction over Defendants under subsection
(3) of Connecticut's long-arm statute. ECF No. 18 at 3.1 The statute provides, in relevant part:
[A] court may exercise personal jurisdiction over any nonresident individual … who
in person or through an agent: … (3) commits a tortious act outside the state causing
injury to person or property within the state … 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….
Conn. Gen Stat. § 52–59b(a)
When I construe Plaintiff’s allegations liberally and accept all uncontested
allegations as true, Plaintiff has failed to make a prima facie showing that Defendants are
subject to jurisdiction under Conn. Gen Stat. § 52–59b(a)(3). First, Plaintiff has failed to
allege any injury to person or property within Connecticut. “To determine whether a
tortious act causes injury inside the state, courts generally apply a situs-of-injury test,
which asks them to locate the original event which caused the injury.” Statek Corp. v.
Coudert Bros. LLP, No. 3:07-cv-00456 (SRU), 2018 WL 834227, at *16 (D. Conn. Feb.
12, 2018) (citation and quotation marks omitted). There can be no doubt that the situs of
the injury in this case is West Virginia. Not only did the event which caused Johnny’s
Plaintiff does not assert jurisdiction under any other section of Connecticut’s long-arm statute, so this ruling is
confined to subsection (3).
death occur in West Virginia, but essentially all of Plaintiff’s allegations relate to conduct
occurring in West Virginia. Johnny was residing in West Virginia, the Defendants
allegedly were negligent in West Virginia when they failed to supervised their son A.H.,
and ultimately, A.H. allegedly “brutally beat” and “killed Johnny with a single gunshot
wound to the head” in West Virginia. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 18, 21, 28
Plaintiff’s argument that Johnny was “a resident of the State of Connecticut … never
abandoned his Connecticut residency[,]” and “was only temporarily residing” in West Virginia
due to the pandemic does not repair the jurisdictional defect. ECF No. 18 at 3. The focus of the
analysis for personal jurisdiction is not on the plaintiff’s residence, but on where the tortious
conduct occurred. See Robb v. Robb, 620 F. Supp. 2d 282, 287 (D. Conn. 2009) (explaining that
when the tortious conduct occurs outside the state, and there are no additional circumstances that
warrant exercising jurisdiction, Connecticut lacks personal jurisdiction, even if there are latent
injuries that are not discovered until the plaintiff is within Connecticut); see also Evergreen
Media Holdings, LLC v. Warren, 105 F. Supp. 3d 192, 199–200 (D. Conn. 2015) (“As to the instate injury, the situs of a commercial injury is generally where the plaintiff experiences a loss of
business, not where the plaintiff resides, despite the fact that the plaintiff may, while in his home
state, subsequently feel the economic impact of the lost business.”) (citation omitted). Under
Plaintiff’s theory of jurisdiction, a Connecticut resident who gets rear-ended while driving in
Ohio could return to Connecticut and haul the Ohio resident into Connecticut court, simply
because plaintiff is a Connecticut resident, even though all of the events occurred in Ohio.
Connecticut’s long-arm statute does not support such a result. Instead, the statute requires that
there be some injury to person or property within Connecticut.
Plaintiff’s only allegation of injury to person or property in Connecticut is an injury
to the State of Connecticut “vis-a-vis its filing of a Department of Administrative Services
lien against the Probate Estate.” ECF No. 18 at 3. Plaintiff does not support this position
with citations to any authority, and does not explain the nature of the injury to the State. Id.
Apparently, Plaintiff is suggesting that the State has suffered or will suffer some injury
because Johnny was a ward of the state, not yet adopted by Plaintiff and still under the care
and control of the foster system at the time of his death. Even if Johnny’s death has caused
the State to suffer some injury, that injury would be secondary and only felt by the State as
a result of the original event that occurred in West Virginia – Johnny’s death; secondary
resultant injuries are insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction under Connecticut’s
long-arm statute. LaPrade v. Peyton, No. 3:13-CV-01005 (MPS), 2014 WL 2871584, at *2
(concluding injury “within the state” requirement was not met because, regardless of where
“resultant damages [were] felt by the plaintiff,” a Connecticut resident, the car accidentcausing injury took place in Maryland). Connecticut may have a connection to Johnny, but
Plaintiff’s negligence claim “has nothing to do with anything that occurred or had its
principal impact in Connecticut.” Statek Corp., 2018 WL 834227, at *16.
Moreover, neither the complaint nor the brief make any allegations that address the
second part of subsection (3). In addition to injury in Connecticut, subsection (3) requires
either a showing that Defendants “regularly do[ ] or solicit[ ] business, or engage[ ] in any
other persistent course of conduct, or derive[ ] substantial revenue from goods used or
consumed or services rendered, in the state”, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52–59b(a)(3)(A), or that
Defendants expected or should have expected their actions or inaction to have
consequences in Connecticut, and derived substantial revenues from interstate or
international commerce. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52–59b(a)(3)(B). Plaintiff has not satisfied
either requirement. In fact, Plaintiff has failed to even address that portion of the statute.
See Liebert v. Jones, No. 3:20-cv-00970 (VLB), 2020 WL 7645432, at *8, *10 (D. Conn.
Dec. 23, 2020) (concluding that Plaintiffs failed to establish personal jurisdiction under
Connecticut’s long-arm statute or due process and noting that “Plaintiffs fail[ed] to even
address the second part of that subsection….”).
Defendants affidavits make clear that they have no commercial transactions or
other interactions that involve Connecticut. Defendants state that they neither transact nor
solicit business in Connecticut, or engage in any other persistent course of conduct or
derive any revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered in Connecticut.
ECF Nos. 15, 16; See Shaughnessy v. Southern, No. 3:18-cv-939 (MPS), 2019 WL
1922292, at *5–6 (D. Conn. Apr. 30, 2019) (Affidavits supported dismissing a Connecticut
citizen’s claims against a doctor, a citizen of Minnesota who performed surgery on plaintiff
in Shanghai, China, for failure to establish personal jurisdiction because the plaintiff failed
to satisfy the elements of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52–59b(a)(3), or any other provisions under
Connecticut’s long-arm statute). Plaintiff has offered nothing to controvert Defendants’
Regarding the subsection (B) of the statute, which requires an expectation that
actions will have consequences in Connecticut and that substantial revenues are derived
from interstate or international commerce, Plaintiff similarly has failed to show how
Defendants fall within the requirements. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52–59b(a)(3)(B). It is
conceivable that Defendants expected or should have expected their actions to have
consequences in Connecticut because, according to the complaint, Johnny was residing in
West Virginia only temporarily due to the pandemic and his foster parents who intended to
adopt him remained in Connecticut. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 11, 18. There are no allegations,
however, that Defendants derived any revenues, much less substantial revenues, from
interstate or international commerce. Plaintiff has thus failed to make a prima facie
showing that he has met the requirements of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52–59b(a)(3). In light of
this conclusion, it is unnecessary to proceed to the due process step of the personal
Transfer of Venue
Plaintiff asserts that rather than dismissing the claims, the case should be transferred
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406.2 “Whether dismissal or transfer is appropriate lies within the
sound discretion of the district court.” Minnette v. Time Warner, 997 F.2d 1023, 1026 (2d Cir.
1993). “Courts enjoy considerable discretion in deciding whether to transfer a case in the interest
of justice.” Daniel v. Am. Bd. of Emergency Med., 428 F.3d 408, 435–36 (2d Cir. 2005) (citation
omitted). Defendants do not object to transferring the case. ECF No. 19 at 8. I therefore
exercise my discretion to transfer this case to the Northern District of West Virginia.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court TRANSFERS this action to the Northern District of
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Michael P. Shea, U.S.D.J.
Section 1406(a) provides: “The district court of a district in which is filed a case laying venue in the wrong
division or district shall dismiss, or if it be in the interest of justice, transfer such case to any district or division in
which it could have been brought.”
April 26, 2021
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