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Gratz v. Gratz

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

April 15, 2019

STEPHEN C. GRATZ, Plaintiff,
v.
DIANE GRATZ, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBERT E. PAYNE, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on the Defendant's MOTION UNDER RULE 12(B)(2) TO DISMISS COMPLAINT FOR LACK OF PERSONAL JURISDICTION (the "MOTION") (ECF No. 12) . For the following reasons, the MOTION will be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Stephen Gratz ("Steve") filed this action against his stepmother Diane Gratz ("Diane") for tortious interference with contract, business conspiracy, and common law conspiracy.[1] See generally Am. Compl. (ECF No. 9) . Steve alleges that Diane interfered with contracts that Steve had with his father, George Gratz ("George"), [2] pertaining to various real estate holdings of Steve and George in Virginia. Id. ¶¶ 41-54. The nub of Steve's case is that Diane intentionally drove a wedge between Steve and George, causing George to violate or terminate various contracts and thereby causing losses to Steve. See id.

         Steve asserts that the Court has personal jurisdiction over Diane pursuant to Virginia's long-arm statute, Va. Code §§ 8.01-328.1(A)(1), (A)(3), and (A)(4), and the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution. Am. Compl. ¶ 4. He alleges that Diane, who lives in and is a citizen of Florida, id. ¶ 2, owns real property in Richmond; keeps personal property in Richmond; and has ''continuous and systematic contacts with the Commonwealth such that it is her second home." Id. Further, he alleges that Diane, directly or through an agent, transacted business in Richmond relating to the properties at issue, committed intentional torts and other wrongs in the Commonwealth, caused tortious injury to Steve by acts outside the Commonwealth, regularly does business and derives substantial revenues from actions within the Commonwealth, and has minimum contacts with Virginia. Id.

         Diane moves to dismiss the AMENDED COMPLAINT for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2). ECF No. 12. The parties have fully briefed the MOTION and it is ripe for decision.[3]

         THE STANDARD GOVERNING FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(2)

         Where, as here, the Court considers a Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(2) for lack of personal jurisdiction "on the basis of motion papers, supporting legal memoranda, and the allegations in the complaint, the plaintiff bears the burden [of] making a prima facie showing of a sufficient jurisdictional basis to survive the jurisdictional challenge." Consulting Eng'rs Corp. v. Geometric Ltd., 561 F.3d 273, 276 (4th Cir. 2009) (citation omitted). Like Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), at this "preliminary stage, even when the motion is accompanied by affidavits, we give the plaintiffs' allegations a favorable presumption, taking the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Sneha Media & Entm't, LLC v. Associated Broad. Co. P LTD, 911 F.3d 192, 196 (4th Cir. 2018).

         DISCUSSION

         Under the foregoing authority, at this stage of the case, Steve must make a prima facie showing that the Court has personal jurisdiction over Diane. As set forth below, construing Steve's allegations in the light most favorably to him, the Court concludes that Steve has made such a showing as to specific personal jurisdiction, but not as to general personal jurisdiction.

         I. Framework for Personal Jurisdiction Analysis

         Federal courts exercise personal jurisdiction to the extent allowed under state law for the state in which they sit. See New Wellington Fin. Corp. v. Flagship Resort Dev. Corp, 416 F.3d 290, 294 (4th Cir. 2005); Gillison v. Lead Express, Inc., No.3:16cv41, 2018 WL 6537151, *5 (E.D. Va. Dec. 12, 2018). Personal jurisdiction must comport with both state law and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. New Wellington, 416 F.3d at 294. Thus, the Court must first look to Virginia's long-arm statute, under which Steve asserts personal jurisdiction, see Am. Compl. ¶ 4, and then to the federal constitutional requirements.

         In relevant part, Virginia's long-arm statute provides that:

         A. A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a person, who acts directly or by an agent, as to a cause of ...


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