Addison v. Cesca et al
AMENDED MEMORANDUM. Signed by Judge Ellen L. Hollander on 11/9/2017. (c/m 11/9/17 jnls, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
EDWIN R. ADDISON,
Civil Action No. ELH-17-523
KATHLEEN CESCA et al.,
Edwin R. Addison, the self-represented plaintiff, asks the Court to resolve a family
dispute that is rooted in a potential inheritance. Addison alleges that his cousins, defendants
Kathleen Cesca and Douglas Brown, have taken advantage of the parties’ wealthy, elderly uncle,
Vincent L. Vinella, Jr.1 ECF 15 (Complaint) at 9.2 According to plaintiff, Cesca and Brown
have “‘pillage[d]’ Vinella’s bank accounts, without his knowledge” (id. at 7), fraudulently
obtained a power of attorney, and have diminished plaintiff’s anticipated inheritance from
Vinella. Id. ¶¶ 6-7. Therefore, plaintiff has filed suit to recover his uncle’s stolen wealth and to
report defendants’ malfeasance to the Court. See id. at 7. Plaintiff has attached numerous
exhibits to his Complaint.
* The Court has made a correction to the caption. The Memorandum remains unchanged.
The middle initial and the suffix “Jr.” appear on various exhibits, although the parties
do not refer to Mr. Vinella as such.
The original Complaint is docketed at ECF 1. However, as filed, that Complaint was
missing several pages. At the Court’s request (ECF 14), plaintiff filed a complete copy of the
Complaint with the Court. ECF 15.
Addison asserts five claims against defendants, all under Maryland law, three of which
are civil and two of which are criminal. Id. at 24-26. 3 Claim 1 is a claim for civil conversion, in
which plaintiff alleges that defendants have “exploited [Vinella’s] estate” and caused damage to
Vinella as well as his heirs and remaindermen, including plaintiff.
Id. at 24. In Claim 2, for
detinue and replevin, plaintiff alleges that defendants, “using fraudulent powers of attorney . . . .
unjustly detain” Vinella’s property. Id. at 25. Claim 3 is for intentional interference with
economic relations. Plaintiff alleges that defendants “willfully and wantonly and unlawfully
exploited Vinella’s estate causing damage to Vinella, his heirs and his remaindermen, including
the Plaintiff.” Id. In particular, plaintiff asserts that Vinella validly executed a Deed Transfer on
June 5, 2007, granting himself a life estate in his own home and transferring the remaining
interest to his relatives, including plaintiff, as remaindermen. Id. ¶ 19. According to plaintiff,
defendants subsequently manipulated Vinella into signing a “Corrective Deed,” which removed
the remaindermen, including plaintiff, from the deed. Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiff maintains that this new
deed is invalid. Id. Claim 4 alleges “a general theft claim against Defendants,” under Md. Code,
§ 7-104 of the Criminal Law Article (“C.L.”). Id. at 26. Claim 5 is another allegation of
criminal conduct against the defendants, for elder abuse, under C.L. §§ 3-604, 3-605, and for
false imprisonment. Id.
Defendants have moved to dismiss. ECF 7 (“Motion”). In support of the Motion, they
have submitted several exhibits. Defendants argue that because Mr. Vinella is alive, plaintiff
lacks any legal authority or standing to assert the claims in the Complaint on Vinella’s behalf.
Id. at 1, 2. In addition, defendants address the legal deficiencies of each claim. Plaintiff opposes
the Motion. ECF 9 (“Opposition”). Defendants have replied. ECF 12.
Jurisdiction is founded on diversity of citizenship, as plaintiff is domiciled in North
Carolina and defendants live in Maryland. ECF 15 at 3; see also 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1332.
The Court is mindful that a self-represented litigant is generally “held to a ‘less stringent
standard’ than is a lawyer, and the Court must liberally construe his claims, no matter how
‘inartfully’ pled.” Morrison v. United States, RDB-12-3607, 2014 WL 979201, at *2 (D. Md.
Mar. 12, 2014) (internal citations omitted); see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007);
Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972) (stating that claims of self-represented litigants are
held “to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers”); Bala v.
Commonwealth of Va. Dep’t of Conservation & Recreation, 532 F. App’x 332, 334 (4th Cir.
2013) (per curiam) (same).4
No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons
that follow, I shall grant the Motion.
Standards of Review
Defendants have moved to dismiss the Complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction, and under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim.
A. Rule 12(b)(1) Standard
A federal court’s subject matter jurisdiction depends upon a plaintiff’s standing. The
question of standing concerns whether the litigant is “entitled to have the court decide the merits
of the dispute.” Warth v. Seldin, 422 U.S. 490, 498 (1975). In federal court, standing refers to
both “the jurisdictional requirements of Article III and the prudential limits on its exercise.”
United States v. Windsor, ____ U.S. ____, 133 S. Ct. 2675, 2687 (2013); see also, e.g., Elk
Defendants urge the Court to take judicial notice of the fact that, since 2011, plaintiff
has been a party to several cases in federal court. ECF 7 at 4 (citing four cases). Moreover,
defendants point out that in the case of Addison v. Manning, No. 13-0661 (E.D.N.C.), at ECF 1,
Addison claimed that he was enrolled in an on-line law school from 2010 through 2013. ECF 7
at 4. Nevertheless, I shall construe plaintiff’s submissions in accordance with the standards that
apply to a self-represented litigant.
Grove Unified Sch. Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1, 11 (2004), abrogated in part by Lexmark Int’l,
Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., ____ U.S. ____, 134 S. Ct. 1377, 1387-88 (2014).
The jurisdictional standing requirements derive from the “case or controversy” limitation
in § 2 of Article III of the Constitution. See, e.g., Hollingsworth v. Perry, ____ U.S. ____, 133
S. Ct. 2652, 2662 (2013). Only a plaintiff who has standing to sue has a case or controversy
under Article III. Steel Co. v. Citizens For A Better Env’t., 523 U.S. 83, 102 (1998). “Three
inter-related judicial doctrines—standing, mootness, and ripeness—ensure that federal courts
assert jurisdiction only over ‘Cases’ and ‘Controversies.’” Worth v. Jackson, 451 F.3d 854, 855
(D.C. Cir. 2006) (citing U.S. Const. art. III, § 2.).
The case or controversy limitation “requires the litigant to prove that he has suffered a
concrete and particularized injury that is fairly traceable to the challenged conduct, and is likely
to be redressed by a favorable judicial decision.” Hollingsworth, 133 S. Ct. at 2662 (citing Lujan
v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992)). “In other words, for a federal court to
have authority under the Constitution to settle a dispute, the party before it must seek a remedy
for a personal and tangible harm.” Id. In Hollingsworth, the Supreme Court explained, id. at
2667: “The Article III requirement that a party invoking the jurisdiction of a federal court seek
relief for a particularized injury serves vital interests going to the role of the judiciary in our
system of separated powers.”
Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) governs motions to dismiss for lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. See Khoury v. Meserve, 628 F. Supp. 2d 600, 606 (D. Md. 2003), aff’d, 85 F. App’x
960 (4th Cir. 2004). Under Rule 12(b)(1), the plaintiff bears the burden of proving, by a
preponderance of evidence, the existence of subject matter jurisdiction. See Demetres v. East
West Const., Inc., 776 F.3d 271, 272 (4th Cir. 2015); see also Evans v. B.F. Perkins Co., 166
F.3d 642, 647 (4th Cir. 1999). A challenge to subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1)
may proceed “in one of two ways”: either a facial challenge, asserting that the allegations
pleaded in the complaint are insufficient to establish subject matter jurisdiction, or a factual
challenge, asserting “‘that the jurisdictional allegations of the complaint [are] not true.’” Kerns
v. United States, 585 F.3d 187, 192 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted) (alteration in original); see
also Buchanan v. Consol. Stores Corp., 125 F. Supp. 2d 730, 736 (D. Md. 2001).
In a facial challenge, “the facts alleged in the complaint are taken as true, and the motion
must be denied if the complaint alleges sufficient facts to invoke subject matter jurisdiction.”
Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192; accord Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. v. Mayor & City Council of
Baltimore, 22 F. Supp. 3d 519, 524 (D. Md. 2014). In a factual challenge, on the other hand,
“the district court is entitled to decide disputed issues of fact with respect to subject matter
jurisdiction.” Kerns, 585 F.3d at 192. In that circumstance, the court “may regard the pleadings
as mere evidence on the issue and may consider evidence outside the pleadings without
converting the proceeding to one for summary judgment.” Velasco v. Gov’t of Indonesia, 370
F.3d 392, 398 (4th Cir. 2004); see also Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. Co. v. United
States, 945 F.2d 765, 768 (4th Cir. 1991).
Defendants in this case raise a facial challenge to the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction,
based on the four corners of the Complaint.
B. Rule 12(b)(6) Standard
A defendant may test the legal sufficiency of a complaint by way of a motion to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6). In re Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines v. Valley Cmty.
Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393, 408
(4th Cir. 2010), aff’d sub nom. McBurney v. Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion
by a defendant that, even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the complaint fails as a matter
of law “to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Whether a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by reference to the pleading
requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). That rule provides that a complaint must contain a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” The
purpose of the rule is to provide the defendants with “fair notice” of the claims and the
“grounds” for entitlement to relief. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).
To survive a motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain facts
sufficient to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570; see
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 684 (2009) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded the pleading
standard for ‘all civil actions’ . . . .” (citation omitted)); see also Willner v. Dimon, 849 F.3d 93,
112 (4th Cir. 2017). But, a plaintiff need not include “detailed factual allegations” in order to
satisfy Rule 8(a)(2). Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading rules “do not
countenance dismissal of a complaint for imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the
claim asserted.” Johnson v. City of Shelby, ___ U.S. ____, 135 S. Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per
Nevertheless, the rule demands more than bald accusations or mere speculation.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see Painter’s Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342, 350 (4th Cir.
2013). If a complaint provides no more than “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation
of the elements of a cause of action,” it is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rather, to
satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), the complaint must set forth “enough factual
matter (taken as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action, “even if . . . [the] actual proof of
those facts is improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
556 (internal quotations omitted).
In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “must accept as true all of the factual
allegations contained in the complaint” and must “draw all reasonable inferences [from those
facts] in favor of the plaintiff.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d
435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations omitted); see Semenova v. Maryland Transit Admin., 845 F.3d
564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); Houck v. Substitute Tr. Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015);
Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 943 (2011). But,
a court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from the facts. See Papasan v. Allain,
478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). “A court decides whether [the pleading] standard is met by separating
the legal conclusions from the factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual
allegations, and then determining whether those allegations allow the court to reasonably infer”
that the plaintiff is entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without a Name v. Virginia,
655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).
As noted, both sides have submitted exhibits.
Under limited circumstances, when
resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court may consider documents beyond the complaint without
converting the motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment. Goldfarb v. Mayor & City
Council of Baltimore, 791 F.3d 500, 508 (4th Cir. 2015). In particular, a court may properly
consider documents that are “explicitly incorporated into the complaint by reference and those
attached to the complaint as exhibits . . . .” Goines, 822 F.3d at 166 (citations omitted); see also
U.S. ex rel. Oberg v. Pennsylvania Higher Educ. Assistance Agency, 745 F.3d 131, 136 (4th Cir.
2014); Anand v. Ocwen Loan Servicing, LLC, 754 F.3d 195, 198 (4th Cir. 2014); Am.
Chiropractic Ass’n v. Trigon Healthcare, Inc., 367 F.3d 212, 234 (4th Cir. 2004), cert. denied,
543 U.S. 979 (2004); Phillips v. LCI Int’l Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999). A court may
also “consider a document submitted by the movant that was not attached to or expressly
incorporated in a complaint, so long as the document was integral to the complaint and there is
no dispute about the document’s authenticity.” Goines, 822 F.3d at 166 (citations omitted); see
also Woods v. City of Greensboro, 855 F.3d 639, 642 (4th Cir. 2017; Kensington Volunteer Fire
Dep’t. v. Montgomery Cnty., 684 F.3d 462, 467 (4th Cir. 2012). To be “integral,” a document
must be one “that by its ‘very existence, and not the mere information it contains, gives rise to
the legal rights asserted.’” Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. Severstal Sparrows Point, LLC, 794
F. Supp. 2d 602, 611 (D. Md. 2011) (citation omitted) (emphasis in original).
However, “before treating the contents of an attached or incorporated document as true,
the district court should consider the nature of the document and why the plaintiff attached it.”
Goines, 822 F.3d at 167 (citing N. Ind. Gun & Outdoor Shows, Inc. v. City of S. Bend, 163 F.3d
449, 455 (7th Cir. 1998)). “When the plaintiff attaches or incorporates a document upon which
his claim is based, or when the complaint otherwise shows that the plaintiff has adopted the
contents of the document, crediting the document over conflicting allegations in the complaint is
proper.” Goines, 822 F.3d at 167. Conversely, “where the plaintiff attaches or incorporates a
document for purposes other than the truthfulness of the document, it is inappropriate to treat the
contents of that document as true.” Id.
Plaintiff’s Exhibit 1 is a Power of Attorney agreement (ECF 15 at 29-32), which plaintiff
contends is fraudulent and invalid. His Exhibit 2, a Deed (id. at 33-36), is purported to be valid,
and may be understood to give rise to one of his claims. See id. at 25. Plaintiff’s Exhibit 3, a
Corrective Deed (id. at 37-38), is also purported to be fraudulent. His Exhibit 4 is another
purportedly invalid Deed. Id. at 39-45. Exhibit 5 is email correspondence between plaintiff and
an attorney not involved in the suit. Id. at 46. Exhibit 6 is a purportedly invalid Medical Power
of Attorney. Id. at 47-49. Exhibit 7 is an electronic case record from the District Court for
Howard County, Maryland, denying a restraining order against a Paul Douglas Remson, who is
not a party to this suit. Id. at 50. Because the exhibits are attached to and incorporated by
reference into the Complaint, I shall consider these exhibits to the extent they bear on plaintiff’s
Defendants have attached exhibits to their Motion for the purpose of rebutting several of
plaintiff’s claims. See ECF 7-1, 7-2, 7-3. These include the Power of Attorney agreement (ECF
7-2), which defendants claim—contra plaintiff—is valid (ECF 7 at 9-10); as well as
correspondence from the Howard County Department of Social Services and the State’s
Attorney’s Office for Howard County. ECF 7-1; ECF 7-2. However, these documents are not
incorporated into or otherwise “integral to the complaint.” Goines, 822 F.3d at 165. Therefore,
it is inappropriate to consider these exhibits at the motion to dismiss stage. See Zak v. Chelsea
Therapeutics Int'l, Ltd., 780 F.3d 597, 606-07 (4th Cir. 2015).
Defendants argue that plaintiff lacks standing to bring any of his claims and, as such, the
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. ECF 7 at 2. Plaintiff responds that this Court has subject
matter jurisdiction over plaintiff’s claim for intentional interference with economic relations, and
“ancillary jurisdiction over the remainder of the claims.” ECF 9 at 7. The primary roadblock to
plaintiff’s position is that he is asserting his claims on behalf of his uncle, who is alive, but
plaintiff is not his uncle’s attorney or his legal guardian.
Even assuming that this Court has jurisdiction to decide plaintiff’s claim for intentional
interference with economic relations, ancillary jurisdiction is not a substitute for an actual case or
Courts have generally found ancillary jurisdiction “for two separate, though
sometimes related, purposes: (1) to permit disposition by a single court of claims that are, in
varying respects and degrees, factually interdependent, . . . and (2) to enable a court to function
successfully, that is, to manage its proceedings, vindicate its authority, and effectuate its decree.”
Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 379-80 (1994) (citations omitted).
But, regardless of whether plaintiff can assert that his claims are factually interdependent, to
meet the “‘irreducible constitutional minimum of standing’ . . . . there must be alleged (and
ultimately proved) an ‘injury in fact’—a harm suffered by the plaintiff that is ‘concrete’ and
‘actual or imminent, not “conjectural” or “hypothetical.”’”
Steel Co., 523 U.S. at 102-03
(citations omitted). If there is no “harm suffered by the plaintiff,” there can be no jurisdiction in
federal court for that claim, even if it is brought alongside another claim that is properly pleaded.
With the possible exception of plaintiff’s claim for interference with economic relations,
discussed infra, all of plaintiff’s claims concern defendants’ alleged wrongs against Vinella, not
plaintiff. ECF 15 at 24-26. Plaintiff does not have standing to assert these claims, and therefore
they must be dismissed.
B. Failure to State a Claim
Even if plaintiff has standing to assert one or all of these claims, they cannot survive a
12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
1. Civil Conversion
In Claim 1, plaintiff has not stated a claim for civil conversion. Indeed, plaintiff states in
his Complaint that one of the prongs of a claim of civil conversion is that the plaintiff must show
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legal title to the property. ECF 15 at 24. The requirement of this element is supported by
Maryland law. See, e.g., Yuan v. Johns Hopkins Univ., 452 Md. 436, 463, 157 A.3d 254, 269
(2017) (“‘The gist of a conversion is not the acquisition of the property by the wrongdoer, but the
wrongful deprivation of a person of property to the possession of which he is entitled.’” (quoting
Darcars Motors of Silver Spring, Inc. v. Borzym, 379 Md. 249, 261-62, 841 A.2d 828, 835-36
(2004))); Lawrence v. Graham, 29 Md. App. 422, 426-27, 349 A.2d 271, 273-74 (1975) (stating
that plaintiff must be entitled to the property to make a claim of conversion).
Plaintiff has not alleged legal title to the property in question, or even possession of the
property. At best, he claims prospective damage, and only derivatively, insofar as the damage to
Vinella, and to Vinella’s future estate, might affect him as one of Vinella’s heirs and
remaindermen. ECF 15 at 24. This speculative interest in someone else’s property does not
support a claim for conversion, nor does it confer standing. Therefore, I shall dismiss plaintiff’s
claim for civil conversion.
2. Detinue and Replevin
To maintain an action in detinue, the plaintiff must be entitled to physical possession of
the property. See Durst v. Durst, 232 Md. 311, 314, 193 A.2d 26, 28 (1963). Likewise, “‘[i]n a
replevin action, a party seeks . . . to recover specific goods and chattels to which he or she asserts
an entitlement to possession.’” 111 Scherr Lane, LLC v. Triangle Gen. Contracting, Inc., 233
Md. App. 214, 237, 163 A.3d 248, 261 (2017) (quoting Dehn Motor Sales, LLC v. Schultz, 439
Md. 460, 486, 96 A.3d 221 (2014)). Plaintiff concedes as much in his Complaint. ECF 15 at 25
(“To make a case for replevin, the suing person must show that he/she has an immediate right to
possession to the property.”).
Plaintiff has not alleged a right to possession.
plaintiff’s claim must fail.
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3. Criminal Conversion, Elder Abuse, and Criminal False Imprisonment
Plaintiff alleges several crimes in his Complaint, framed as criminal conversion of
property under C.L. § 7-104 (Claim 4); elder abuse under C.L. §§ 3-604 and 3-605; and criminal
false imprisonment, presumably under Maryland common law (Claim 5). ECF 15 at 26. It is
well established, however, that a private citizen cannot institute criminal prosecutions. See
Lopez v. Robinson, 914 F.2d 486, 494 (4th Cir. 1990) (“No citizen has an enforceable right to
institute a criminal prosecution.”); see also Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619 (1973)
(“[A] private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of
another.”); Atiemo v. Proctor, PX-16-3762, 2016 WL 7012300, *1 (D. Md. Dec. 1, 2016)
(dismissing plaintiff’s claims based on criminal statutes because the statutes do not confer the
right to civil enforcement through a private cause of action); Zegato Travel Sols., LLC v. Bailey,
TDC-14-3808, 2014 WL 7365807, at *2 (D. Md. Dec. 22, 2014) (“Private citizens do not have
the right to institute a criminal prosecution or to enforce criminal statutes.”).
Plaintiff appears to recognize this principle. He states in his Opposition that he merely
wishes to bring defendants’ alleged crimes to the Court’s attention, for the Court’s own
consideration. ECF 9, ¶ 18.
To the extent plaintiff has attempted to state claims for a violation of these criminal
statutes and/or the common law, the claims are subject to dismissal.
4. Intentional Interference with Economic Relations
In his Opposition, plaintiff appears to equate his claim for “intentional interference with
economic relations” with a claim for “tortuous [sic] interference with expected inheritance.”
ECF 9, ¶ 5. Plaintiff states: “Many jurisdictions recognize ‘tortuous [sic] interference with
inheritance’ as a cause of action, but Maryland does not.” Id. “However,” plaintiff continues,
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“the Maryland Court of Appeals has suggested a roadmap for causes of action similar to this.”
Id. Plaintiff then engages in analysis of the decision of the Maryland Court of Appeals in
Anderson v. Meadowcroft, 339 Md. 218, 661 A.2d 726 (1995), leading him to conclude that
“[t]he Court of Appeals did not lucidly state this roadmap, but indisputably conveyed a path.”
ECF 9, ¶ 10.
In Anderson, the Maryland Court of Appeals had considered adopting the tort of
interference with expected inheritance, but found no need to do so because the plaintiff had not
alleged an element of the hypothetical tort. Id. at 227, 661 A.2d at 730. Plaintiff offers no
authority beyond Anderson for the viability of his claim.
However, after Anderson, in Geduldig v. Posner, 129 Md. App. 490, 508-09, 743 A.2d
247, 257 (Md. Ct. Spec. App. 1999), the Maryland Court of Special Appeals also declined to
explicitly recognize the tort. Nevertheless, it held open the door, predicting “that the Court of
Appeals would recognize the tort if it were necessary to afford complete, but traditional, relief.”
For several reasons, this claim must fail.
For one, plaintiff did not plead tortious
interference with expected inheritance in his Complaint.
Rather, he pleaded intentional
interference with economic relations. ECF 15 at 25. “[T]o establish a claim for intentional
interference with economic relationships, a plaintiff must demonstrate ‘(1) intentional and willful
acts; (2) calculated to cause damage to the plaintiffs in their lawful business; (3) done with the
unlawful purpose to cause such damage and loss, without right or justifiable cause on the part of
the defendants (which constitutes malice); and (4) actual damage and loss resulting.’” Painter’s
Mill Grille, LLC, 716 F.3d at 354 (emphasis omitted) (quoting Alexander & Alexander Inc. v. B.
Dixon Evander & Assocs., Inc., 336 Md. 635, 652, 650 A.2d 260, 269 (1994)). Plaintiff has not
alleged that defendants’ actions were calculated to cause damage to any “lawful business” of
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plaintiff. Nor can plaintiff show “actual damage and loss resulting” because, as discussed,
plaintiff has no present interest in Vinella’s property.
Likewise, even if plaintiff had pleaded a claim for tortious interference with expected
inheritance, that claim would also fail.
Judge Bredar of this Court recently considered a
complaint in which a plaintiff had alleged interference with expected inheritance and, following
the guidance of Geduldig, found that it stated a claim. See Kafka v. Hess, JKB-16-1757, 2017
WL 2439142, at *10 (D. Md. June 6, 2017). Notably, however, Judge Bredar observed that “the
tort does not accrue until the death of the person from whom a plaintiff expects to inherit; this is
so because the tort includes the element of damage to the plaintiff, and damage does not occur
until the plaintiff does not receive the expected inheritance upon the decedent’s death.” Id.
Vinella is not dead. ECF 15 at 10-11. Therefore, plaintiff has not suffered damage.
Because plaintiff has failed to state a claim for either intentional interference with
economic relations, as he has pleaded, or for tortious interference with expected inheritance, as
he has argued, the claim is subject to dismissal.
For the reasons stated above, I shall GRANT defendant’s motion to dismiss.
An Order follows, consistent with this Memorandum.
Date: November 9, 2017
Ellen Lipton Hollander
United States District Judge
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