DOERR v. UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE et al
OPINION. Signed by Judge John Michael Vazquez on 6/9/17. (sr, )
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NOT FOR PUBLICATION
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
AYRTON J. DOERR,
Civ. Action No. 16-0273 8
UNIVERSITY Of DELAWARE, et al.,
John Michael Vazguez, U.S.D.J.
This matter comes before the Court on Defendants University of Delaware (“UDeI”) and
Patrick Harker, Jose-Luis Piera, Domenico Grasso, Ivet Z. Tweedy, Kathryn Goldman, Michael
J. fembacher, William Wentz, John Doe and Roberta Roe’s (the “Individual Defendants”)
motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim.
D.E. 3. Plaintiff opposes the motion. D.E. 5. The Court reviewed all submissions in support
and opposition, and considered the motion without oral argument pursuant to federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 78 and Local Civil Rule 78.1(b). for the reasons that follow, the Court grants
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Plaintiff Ayrton J. Doerr was a student at UDe1 from September 2011 until May 2014.
¶ 4. This matter arises from an incident that led to Plaintiffs arrest and subsequent
expulsion from UDel. Id.
On April 19, 2014, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Plaintiff and two fellow students entered
an unlocked off-campus apartment complex in Newark, Delaware. Id.
students entered the bedroom of a former girlfriend (Russo) of one of the students (Lee) and
allegedly assaulted another male in the room (Zweifel) who was then involved in a romantic
relationship with Russo. Id.
¶ 17. The three students allegedly kicked, punched, and struck
Zweifel with a candle jar. Id.
¶ 18. The three students were subsequently arrested and charged
with assault and home invasion. Id.
five days after the incident occurred, UDe1 suspended Plaintiff from the University. Id.
20. Within ten days of the incident, UDeI conducted a hearing and concluded that Plaintiff had
violated the code of student conduct and expelled Plaintiff from the University. Id.
Criminal charges in the underlying assault were never presented to a grand jury, and on February
3, 2016, the Attorney General of the State of Delaware closed the criminal investigation by filing
a notice ofnolleproseqzti. Id.
Plaintiff filed a six-count Complaint alleging (1) unlawful expulsion in violation of
Plaintiffs civil rights under the United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and § 1988, (2)
violation of Plaintiffs right to procedural due process under the United States Constitution and
§ 1983, (3) violation of Plaintiffs right to substantive due process under the United
States Constitution and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, (4) violation of Plaintiffs right to privacy under the
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United States Constitution and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, (5) breach of the covenant of good faith and
fair dealing, and (6) negligent infliction of emotional distress. Defendants moved to dismiss the
Complaint for improper venue, lack of personal jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim.’
Plaintiff filed an opposition and Defendants replied.
LAW AND ANALYSIS
As noted above, Defendants move to dismiss the Complaint on three separate bases. The
Court finds Defendants’ arguments regarding improper venue and failure to state a claim
However, for the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that it lacks
personal jurisdiction3 and therefore does not reach these arguments.
“[A] federal district court may assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident of the state
in which the court sits to the extent authorized by the law of that state.” Marten v. Godwin, 499
F.3d 290, 296 (3d Cir. 2007). In New Jersey, “courts may exercise jurisdiction over a non
resident defendant to the uttermost limits permitted by the United States Constitution.” Nicastro
v. McIntyre Mach. Am., Ltd., 201 N.J. 48, 72 (2010) (internal quotation marks omitted), rev’d on
Defendant’s brief in support of its motion (D.E. 3) will be referred to as “Def. Br.” Plaintiffs
brief in opposition (D.E. 5) will be called “P1. Opp.” Defendant’s reply brief(D.E. 8) will be
referred to as “Def. Rep.”
Plaintiff states that his choice of forum should be “accorded great weight.” P1. Opp. at 3. This
argument misconstrues the difference between a motion for improper venue and a motion to
transfer due to an inconvenient forum. See Patricco v. Cameo fashion Accessories, Inc., No.
86-5841, 1987 WL 7676, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 11, 1987). “Where, as here, the current forum is
challenged as an improper venue, the plaintiffs choice is irrelevant.” Id.
Moreover, as to Defendants’ motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, the Court emphasizes
that the plausibility pleading standard “asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has
acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (emphasis added). F or example,
one glaring defect in Plaintiffs Complaint is that he pleads no facts that are specific to most of
the Individual Defendants.
“In deciding a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, the Court assumes the
allegations of the complaint are true.” Bank of W v. Motor Vessel 2000 FOUNTAIN 27 FEVER,
No. 00-6007, 2001 WL 1795540, at *1 (D.N.J. Dec. 6, 2001).
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other grounds sub nom., I McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873 (2011).
“Accordingly, in determining whether personal jurisdiction exists, we ask whether, under the
Due Process Clause, the defendant has certain minimum contacts with [New Jersey] such that the
maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”
O’Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co., 496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks
Personal jurisdiction may be established by means of general jurisdiction or specific
jurisdiction over a defendant. Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 131 5. Ct.
2846, 2851 (2011) (noting that “opinions in the wake of the pathmarking International Shoe
decision have differentiated between general or all-purpose jurisdiction, and specific or caselinked jurisdiction”).
“For an individual, the paradigm forum for the exercise of general
jurisdiction is the individual’s domicile; for a corporation, it is an equivalent place, one in which
the corporation is fairly regarded as at home.” Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 5. Ct. 746, 760
Here, Plaintiff does not allege facts to support a finding of general jurisdiction in New
Jersey over any Defendants.
Plaintiff argues that “UDe1 should reasonably anticipate being
haled into court in the resident state of its students when student rights are violated” and that
Defendants “engage in a continuous campaign to attract New Jersey students to its campus.” P1.
Opp. at 4. Courts, however, have consistently rejected the theory that a university’s recruitment
of out-of-state students and their attendance at the university is sufficient to confer general
jurisdiction over the university in the students’ home states. See Gehling v. St. George ‘s Sch. of
Med., Ltd., 773 F.2d 539, 542-43 (3d Cir. 1985); Am. Univ. Sys., Inc. v. Am. Univ., 858 F. $upp.
2d 705, 713-14 (N.D. Tex. 2012) (collecting cases); Hardnett v. Duquesne Univ., 897 F. Supp.
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920, 923 (D. Md. 1995); Severinsen v. Widener Univ., 338 N.J. Super. 42, 49-53 (App. Div.
Additionally, Plaintiff does not allege that any of the Individual Defendants are
domiciled in New Jersey. See Compl.
¶J 6-14. Therefore, Plaintiff pleads insufficient facts to
establish general jurisdiction over Defendants.
The Court also concludes that it does not have specific jurisdiction over Defendants.
Specific jurisdiction requires that the defendant “has purposefully directed his activities at
residents of the forum and the litigation results from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to
those activities.” Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985) (internal citations
and quotation marks omitted). In other words, a defendant’s activities in a state must relate to
the plaintiffs claims, and the plaintiffs claims must arise from those activities.
exercise of personal jurisdiction “requires some act by which the defendant purposefully avails
itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits
and protections of its laws.” I McIntyre Mach., Ltd. v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873, $80 (2011)
(emphasis added) (internal quotation marks omitted). Additionally, due process requires that
“maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”
Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 (1984) (quoting Int’l Shoe
Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)); see also O’Connor, 496 F.3d at 316 (discussing
three-step process in determining personal jurisdiction). Importantly, “the defendant’s conduct
and connection with the forum State [must be] such that he should reasonably anticipate being
haled into court there.” World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980).
In this case, Plaintiff does not argue that any of the causes of action arose from any
contact Defendants had with New Jersey. Indeed, the facts alleged in the Complaint indicate that
all of Defendants’ alleged wrongdoing took place in Delaware. Even the underlying conduct by
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Plaintiff, which led to his expulsion, allegedly occurred in Delaware. Plaintiff was arrested in
Delaware for an offense in Delaware and the resulting disciplinary hearing, suspension, and
expulsion from UDe1 all took place in Delaware. In short, Plaintiff pleads no facts that support
specific jurisdiction in New Jersey.
For those reasons, the Court dismisses the Complaint without prejudice for lack of
Within thirty days of this Opinion, Plaintiff may file an amended
complaint, addressing the deficiencies noted in this Opinion. An appropriate Order accompanies
Dated: June9 2017
Johii Michael Vazque’f3’SXJ.
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