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Cooper Materials Handling, Inc. v. Tegeler

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

September 24, 2014



JAMES C. CACHERIS, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendant Gordon Tegeler's ("Defendant" or "Tegeler") Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction, [Dkt. 7], and corresponding Memorandum in Support, [Dkt. 8]. Plaintiff Cooper Materials Handling, Inc. ("Plaintiff" or "Cooper Materials") has brought this action alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duties, and conversion arising from Tegeler's previous employment with Cooper Materials. ( See Compl. [Dkt. 1] ¶¶ 19, 25, 31.) For the reasons set forth below, the Court will deny Defendant's motion.

I. Background

Cooper Materials is a small business specializing in project management, design/build and materials handling equipment. (Compl. ¶ 1.) It is incorporated under the laws of Virginia with its headquarters in Vienna, Virginia. ( Id. ¶ 1.) Tegeler is a Maryland citizen. ( Id. ¶ 4.)

From January 21, 2012 until July 11, 2014, Tegeler worked at Cooper Materials as Director of Preconstruction. ( Id. ¶ 3.) The complaint does not detail where Tegeler was based during his time at Cooper Materials. According to Tegeler, he worked in Frederick, Maryland. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Mem. [Dkt. 8], Tegeler Decl. at 2 [hereinafter Tegeler Decl.].) A few weeks after starting on the job, Tegeler signed a confidentiality agreement. (Compl. ¶ 4.) In his role, Tegeler had access to Cooper Materials's confidential and proprietary information. ( Id. ¶ 4.)

One of Tegeler's job responsibilities was coordinating efforts between Cooper Materials and Montage, Inc. ("Montage") on joint bids for projects for the U.S. State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Tegeler was Cooper Materials's representative on a joint bid for a State Department project in Abu Dhabi. ( Id. ¶ 5.) He traveled to Abu Dhabi as part of the bidding process. ( Id. ¶ 5.) Upon his return, Tegeler informed Cooper Materials that Montage was not awarded the project. ( Id. ¶ 6.) According to Cooper Materials, unbeknownst to it at the time Montage was, in fact, awarded the project. ( Id. ¶ 6.)

Shortly after returning from the Abu Dhabi trip, Tegeler submitted his resignation to Cooper Materials, "indicating that he did not feel that he was being successful in his role at Cooper and that although he did not have another job lined-up, he felt that it was best that he end his employment with Cooper." ( Id. ¶ 7.) He tendered his resignation on July 7, 2014, stating his last day was July 11, 2014. ( Id. ¶ 7.)

Cooper Materials alleges that while Tegeler was still in its employ, Tegeler diverted business opportunities from Cooper Materials to Montage, including the Abu Dhabi project. ( Id. ¶ 12.) At some point between July 7 and July 11, Cooper Materials alleges that Tegeler made copies of its confidential and proprietary information, including bids and bid-related documents. ( Id. ¶ 11.) The complaint does not detail where this copying occurred, but many of Cooper's confidential records are held on the company's computer server located and administered in Virginia. (Pl.'s Opp. [Dkt. 10] at 3.) Tegeler maintains that if any copying occurred, it took place in Maryland, not Virginia. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Mem. at 4.)

Cooper Materials filed this suit on July 25, 2014 alleging three causes of action: (1) breach of contract under the confidentiality agreement for the misappropriation of confidential company information; (2) breach of the fiduciary duties of good faith and loyalty; and (3) conversion of the confidential information. Tegeler filed the instant motion, arguing that the complaint should be dismissed because this Court lacked personal jurisdiction over him. (Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss Mem. at 1.)

Having been fully briefed and argued, Tegeler's is ripe for adjudication.

II. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) permits a defendant to raise lack of personal jurisdiction as a defense in a pre-answer motion. The plaintiff bears the burden of proving to the court the existence of jurisdiction over the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence. New Wellington Fin. Corp. v. Flagship Resort Dev. Corp., 416 F.3d 290, 294 (4th Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). If there are disputed factual questions as to the existence of jurisdiction, the court may hold a separate evidentiary hearing or may defer ruling pending relevant evidence produced at trial. See Combs v. Bakker, 886 F.2d 673, 676 (4th Cir. 1989); Long v. Chevron Corp., No. 4:11cv47, 2011 WL 3903066, at *3 (E.D. Va. Sept. 2, 2011). In the absence of an evidentiary hearing, the burden on the plaintiff is simply to make a prima facie showing of a sufficient jurisdictional basis. New Wellington, 416 F.3d at 294. In determining whether a plaintiff has met this burden, courts "must construe all relevant pleading allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, assume credibility, and draw the most favorable inferences for the existence of jurisdiction.'" Id. (quoting Combs, 886 F.2d at 676).

III. Analysis

Federal courts exercise personal jurisdiction in the manner provided by state law. New Wellington, 416 F.3d at 294. Determining whether personal jurisdiction exists involves two steps: (1) whether the state's long-arm statue authorizes the exercise of jurisdiction and, if so (2) whether the exercise of jurisdiction is consistent with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Eagle Paper Int'l, Inc. v. Expolink, Ltd. No. CIV.A. 2:07CV160, 2008 WL 170506, at *3 (E.D. Va. Jan. 17, 2008). In Virginia, "[i]t is manifest that the purpose of Virginia's long-arm statute is to assert jurisdiction over nonresidents who engage in some purposeful activity in this State to the extent permissible under the due process clause." Peninsula Cruise, Inc. v. New River Yacht Sales, Inc., 512 S.E.2d 560, 562 (Va. 1999). Because Virginia's long-arm statute is ...

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