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Carroll v. Fedfinancial Federal Credit Union

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

June 25, 2018



          Liam O'Grady United States District Judge.

         Currently before the Court is Defendant FedFinancial Federal Credit Union's Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 13). The Court has considered the evidence and the pleadings, and finds good cause to DENY Defendant's motion.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Mr. Keith Carroll, is a permanently blind resident of the Washington. D.C. area who uses screen reading software to navigate the Internet. Dkt. 11 at 2. Defendant FedFinancial Federal Credit Union ("FFCU") is a community-based, not-for-profit, member-owned, federally-chartered credit union with a branch in Silver Spring, Maryland. See Dkt. 13 at 2. Defendant operates a website that offers information about Defendant, including contact information and details regarding membership. See generally

         In late November 2017, Plaintiff filed this action, claiming that Defendant's website violates Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). See Dkt. 11 at 13. Plaintiff alleges that he attempted to access Defendant's website to learn about the credit union's services and locations, but was denied equal access to the website due to numerous accessibility barriers. including linked images missing alternative text, redundant links, and empty or missing form labels. See Id. at 12-13. Because of these access barriers, Plaintiff was deterred from using Defendant's website and from visiting Defendant's credit union location. Id.

         After Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint (Dkt. 13) is now before the Court. Defendant seeks dismissal of Plaintiff s claims due to lack of personal jurisdiction, improper venue, and failure to state a claim. See Dkt. 13 at 1. Defendant withdrew a previously-asserted argument related to whether Plaintiff was eligible for membership in Defendant's credit union based on allegations made in the Amended Complaint. Id.[1]

         II. Legal Standard

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual information to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." BellAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 550 (2007). A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) must be considered in combination with Rule 8(a)(2), which requires "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), so as to "give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555.

         While "detailed factual allegations" are not required, Rule 8 demands that a plaintiff provide more than mere labels and conclusions stating that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Id. Because a Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of a complaint without resolving factual disputes, a district court '"must accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint' and 'draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff.*" Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep 7 v. Montgomery County, 684 F.3d 462, 467 (4th Cir. 2012) (quoting E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011)).

         III. Analysis

         a. Personal Jurisdiction

         Defendant FFCU contends that it is not a resident of Virginia, and that Plaintiff has not sufficiently pled a basis for personal jurisdiction. Dkt. 8 at 3. Defendant acknowledges that its field of membership includes individuals employed in the Washington D.C. and Baltimore metropolitan areas, that some of its members do actually reside in Virginia, and that it sends mailings to those Virginia members. See Id. at 2 ("FedFinancial has a total of 6, 240 members and 298 of those members live in Virginia."). However, because Defendant does not directly advertise to Virginia residents for new members, and because its only branch office is located in Silver Spring, Maryland, Defendant argues that personal jurisdiction does not exist. See Id. at 2.

         Courts can exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant only if such jurisdiction is authorized by the long-arm statute of the slate in which the district court sits and application of the relevant long-arm statute is consistent with the Due Process clause. Thousand Oaks Barrel Co., LLC v. Deep South Barrels LLC, 241 F.Supp.3d 708, 714 (K.D. Va. 2017). The Virginia long-arm statute provides for in personam jurisdiction over any person who "transact[s] any business in Virginia." Zalatel v. Prisma Labs, Inc., 226 F.Supp.3d 599, 605 (E.D. Va. 2016). Virginia's long arm statute extends the jurisdiction of its courts as far as federal due process permits, and therefore the statutory inquiry merges with the constitutional inquiry. Id. Accordingly, the Court will employ the well-established due process inquiry. See Liberty Mut. Fire Ins. Co. v. Menozzi Luigi & C. S. P. A., 92 F.Supp.3d 435, 440 (E.D. Va. 2015).

         Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident defendant only if the defendant has "certain minimum contacts" with the forum state such that maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Inl 'I Shoe Co. v. State of Wash., Office of Unemployment Comp. & Placement, 326 U.S. 310 (1945). Fairness is the touchstone of the jurisdictional inquiry. Liberty Mm., 92 F.Supp.3d at 440. To determine whether specific jurisdiction comports with due process, the Court must consider (1) the extent to which the defendant purposefully availed itself of the privilege of conducting activities in the forum state; (2) whether the plaintiffs claims arise out of those activities; and (3) whether the ...

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