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Halim v. Eagle Group International

December 23, 2008

QULENA HALIM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EAGLE GROUP INTERNATIONAL, LLC, MANAGEMENT AND TRAINING CORP, CELESTE MCDONALD, AND DARRYL JOHNSON DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buckwalter, S.J.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Currently pending before the Court is the Motion of Defendant Eagle Group International, LLC to Dismiss for Lack of Jurisdiction and Improper Service of Process. For the following reasons, the Court grants the Motion in part and transfers the case to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Job Corps program is an educational and job-training program for at-risk youth run by the United States Department of Labor. (Def. Eagle's Mot. to Dismiss, Ex. 2.) It has 122 Job Corps centers located within fifty states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Id. As part of the program, Job Corps contains an educational component helping students obtain high school diplomas or their equivalent. (Id., Ex. 1, Aff. of Jim McDermott ("McDermott Aff.") ¶¶ 15-16.)

Moving Defendant, Eagle Group International, Inc., is a Georgia corporation formed in 1995, which, in November 2005, changed its corporate structure to become Eagle Group International, LLC ("Eagle"). (Id. ¶¶ 4-5.) Eagle is a government contractor that handles logistics, consulting, and management services primarily for the federal government. (Id. ¶ 11.) In March 2004, Eagle began a contract with the United States Department of Labor to run the Potomac Job Corps Center in Southwest Washington, DC. (Id. ¶¶ 7.) The educational component of the Potomac Job Corps Center was the Potomac Academy, which was handled by Eagle's subcontractor, Defendant Management & Training Corporation ("MTC"). (Id. ¶¶ 15-16.) Defendant Darryl Johnson, the former principal of the Academy, was an employee of MTC. (Id. ¶ 17.)

Plaintiff Qulena Halim is a resident of Philadelphia. (Am. Compl. ¶ 1.) She attended the Potomac Academy in an effort to obtain her high school degree. (Id.) On January 23, 2004, Plaintiff was awarded a diploma by the Potomac Academy. (Id.) Shortly thereafter, she applied for a job at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, which required a high school education. The Hospital, however, informed her that her diploma was a "sham" and "invalid," and thus denied her the position. (Id.) When Plaintiff called the Potomac Academy to inquire why her diploma was considered a sham, she learned that the past principal, Defendant Darryl Johnson, and past director, Celeste McDonald, had been dismissed for "falsification of records." (Id. ¶¶ 1, 7-8.) She also learned that some of the high school diplomas issued by the Academy were given under "fraudulent circumstances." (Id. ¶ 1.) At no point did the Potomac Academy contact Plaintiff to inform her either that her diploma was invalid or that the principal and director had been fired. (Id. ¶ 3.)

In May of 2008, Eagle was purchased by another company. (McDermott Aff. ¶ 6.) Because the sale of Eagle did not include any of the assets or liabilities associated with the existing Job Corps contract, a new company, ATEG, was created, in April 2008, to handle matters involving that contract. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.)

On September 8, 2008, Plaintiff initiated the current litigation and, on November 5, 2008, she filed an Amended Complaint. The Amended Complaint brings claims against Eagle, MTC, Darryl Johnson, and Celeste McDonald for fraud (Count I) and negligence (Count II). (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-3, 11-14.) Defendants MTC, Johnson, and McDonald (the "MTC Defendants") filed cross-claims against Defendant Eagle, and Defendant Eagle has similarly cross-claimed against the MTC Defendants. Defendant Eagle filed this Motion to Dismiss on November 25, 2008.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

A. Standard for Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(2)

Motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) require the court to accept as true the allegations of the pleadings and all reasonable inferences therefrom, and to resolve all factual disputes in favor of the plaintiff. Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002); see FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(2). The rule, however, "does not limit the scope of the court's review to the face of the pleadings;" rather the court must consider any affidavits submitted by the parties. Scott v. Lackey, Civ. A. No. 02-1586, 2005 WL 2035598, at *1-2 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2005).

Although a defendant has the initial burden of raising the defense of lack of personal jurisdiction, once the defense is raised, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate facts that establish personal jurisdiction. Provident Nat. Bank v. Cal. Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n., 819 F.2d 434, 437 (3d Cir. 1987); Cumberland Truck Equip. Co. v. Detroit Dies. Corp., 401 F. Supp. 2d 415, 418 (E.D. Pa. 2005). Plaintiff may do so through affidavits or competent evidence that show sufficient contacts with the forum state to establish personal jurisdiction. De Lage Landen Fin. Servs., Inc. v. Rasa Floors, LP, Civ. A. No. 08-0533, 2008 WL 4822033, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 4, 2008). Such contacts must be established with "reasonable particularity," but need only amount to a prima facie case in favor of personal jurisdiction. Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, Nat'l Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Provident, 819 F.2d at 437). If plaintiff meets this burden, defendant must then establish the presence of other considerations that would render jurisdiction unreasonable. DeLage, 2008 WL 4822033, at *3 (citing Carteret Sav. Bank v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 150 (3d Cir. 1992))

B. Standard for Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(5)

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure also allow a Court to dismiss an action for "insufficiency of service of process." FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(5 ). In a Rule 12(b)(5) motion, "the party making the service has the burden of demonstrating validity when an objection to the service is made." Suegart v. U.S. Customs Serv., 180 F.R.D. 276, 278 (E.D. Pa. 1998). "In addressing such motions, '[t]he courts have broad discretion to dismiss the action or to retain the case but quash the service that has been made on defendant[s].'" Grand Ent. Group, Ltd. v. Star Media Sales, Inc., Civ. A. No. 86-5763, 1993 WL 437699, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 21, 1993) (quoting 5A Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, FEDERAL PRACTICE PROCEDURE ยง 1354 at 288 (2d ed. 1990)). Nevertheless, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that "dismissal of a complaint is inappropriate when there exists a ...


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