Rahman v. Chen et al

Filing 21

ORDER granting Plaintiff's/Counter Defendant's 16 Motion to Dismiss Counterclaims. The claims are dismissed with prejudice and without leave to amend. Signed by U.S. District Judge John C Coughenour. (TH)

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THE HONORABLE JOHN C. COUGHENOUR 1 2 3 4 5 6 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 7 8 9 SEEHAM RAHMAN, 10 Plaintiff, 11 v. 12 CASE NO. C17-1005-JCC ORDER DISMISSING COUNTERCLAIMS DAPHNE CHEN, et al., 13 Defendants. 14 15 This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Seeham Rahman’s motion to dismiss all 16 counterclaims made by Defendants Daphne Chen and Timothy Chen (Dkt. No. 16). Having 17 thoroughly considered the parties’ briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument 18 unnecessary and hereby GRANTS Rahman’s motion for the reasons explained herein. 19 Rahman is a citizen of Bangladesh and a permanent resident of the United States. (Dkt. 20 No. 2 at 3.) As a condition of Rahman’s visa for entry into the United States, Daphne Chen and 21 Timothy Chen (collectively “Defendants”) signed a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support (“I-864 22 Affidavit”). (Dkt. Nos. 2 at 3, 2-5 at 8, 2-6 at 8.) The I-864 Affidavit represents a binding 23 agreement between the affiant and the United States for the benefit of the sponsored immigrant. 24 Erler v. Erler, 824 F.3d 1173, 1175 (9th Cir. 2016) (citing 8 U.S.C. § 1183a(a)(1); 8 C.F.R. 25 § 213a.2(d)). Defendants are, therefore, obligated to provide sufficient support to Rahman to 26 ensure he receives income equal to at least “125 percent of the Federal poverty line during the ORDER DISMISSING COUNTERCLAIMS C17-1005-JCC PAGE - 1 1 period in which the affidavit is enforceable.” 8 U.S.C. § 1183a(a)(1)(A). This obligation remains 2 in force until Rahman: (1) becomes a U.S. citizen, (2) is credited with 40 quarters of coverage 3 under the Social Security Act, (3) leaves the U.S. and terminates permanent resident status, (4) is 4 the subject of a new affidavit of support, or (5) dies. 8 U.S.C. § 1183a(a)(2)–(3); 8 C.F.R. 5 § 213a.2(e)(2)(i). None of these terminating events have yet occurred. (Dkt. No. 2 at 8–9.) 6 Rahman, as a third-party beneficiary, brings suit for breach of the Defendant’s I-864 7 support obligation. (Dkt. No. 2 at 9–11); see Matter of Kahn, 332 P.3d 1016, 1017 (Wash. 2014). 8 Defendants assert the following state law counterclaims: rescission, fraud, battery, assault, and 9 outrage. (Dkt. No. 14 at 21–24.) Rahman moves to dismiss the counterclaims. (Dkt. No. 16.) As 10 a threshhold matter, Rahman asserts the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate 11 Defendants’ counterclaims. (Dkt. No. 16 at 16); see Fed. R. of Civ. P. 12(b)(1). The Court 12 agrees. The Court has original jurisdiction for actions arising under laws of the United States and 13 supplemental jurisdiction for state law claims forming the same case or controversy. 28 U.S.C. 14 §§ 1331, 1367(a); see Kuba v. A-1 Agric. Ass’n, 387 F.3d 850, 855 (9th Cir. 2004) (claims form 15 the same case or controversy when they “derive from a common nucleus of operative fact[s] and 16 are such that a [party] would ordinarily be expected to try them in one judicial proceeding.”). 17 At issue before the Court is a claim based on federal law—whether Defendants’ breached 18 their I-864 support obligation in failing to support Rahman. (Dkt. No. 2 at 9–11.) Defendants, in 19 asserting that the Court has supplemental jurisdiction over their state law counterclaims, allege 20 the counterclaims share a common nucleus of facts with their contract-based defenses and on this 21 basis supplemental jurisdiction would apply. (Dkt. No. 19 at 17); see 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). But 22 those defenses are invalid as a matter of law. See Liu v. Kell, C17-0640-JCC, Dkt. No. 35 at *6 23 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 26, 2017) (“federal law underlying the I-864 Affidavit clearly specifies the 24 instances in which the support obligation can be avoided” and contract defenses are not on that 25 list); Dorsaneo v. Dorsaneo, C17-00765-VC, Dkt. No. 55 at *1–2 (N.D. Cal. July 31, 2017) 26 (“Permitting a sponsor to evade his support obligation by asserting a defense of fraud in the ORDER DISMISSING COUNTERCLAIMS C17-1005-JCC PAGE - 2 1 inducement is inconsistent with the purpose of the I-864 requirement, because it would place 2 lawful permanent residents at risk of becoming dependent on the government for subsistence.”); 3 see also Erler, 824 F.3d at 1177 (9th Cir. 2016) (noting that the only basis to avoid an I-864 4 support obligation is a terminating event articulated in the statute). 1 Absent application of 5 Defendants’ contract-based defenses, there is no common nucleus of facts between Defendants’ 6 state law counterclaims and Plaintiff’s federal claim and, therefore, no basis for the Court to 7 extend supplemental jurisdiction to Defendants’ counterclaims. On this basis alone, dismissal is 8 warranted. The Court need not reach Plaintiff’s remaining arguments supporting dismissal. 9 10 11 For the foregoing reasons, Rahman’s motion to dismiss Defendants’ counterclaims (Dkt. No. 16) is GRANTED. The claims are dismissed with prejudice and without leave to amend. DATED this 5th day of December 2017. A 12 13 14 John C. Coughenour UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 1 22 23 24 25 26 The Court is aware that a handful of other Courts have concluded that contract-based defenses may apply to enforcement of an I-864 support obligation. See Dorsaneo v. Dorsaneo, C17-00765-VC, Dkt. No. 55 at *1–2 (N.D. Cal. July 31, 2017) (discussing those decisions). But this Court does not view those decisions as consistent with Erler or persuasive, given that they were generally resolved against the affiant(s) on evidentiary grounds. The Court also notes that Defendants misread this Court’s decision in Liu v. Kell, C17-0640-JCC, Dkt. No. 35 (W.D. Wash. Oct. 26, 2017). While the Court did deny summary judgment on the defense of equitable estoppel in that I-864 enforcement proceeding, the basis for the Court’s denial was procedural, not substantive. Id. at *3, 7–9. ORDER DISMISSING COUNTERCLAIMS C17-1005-JCC PAGE - 3

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