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Capitol Insurance Co. v. Dvorak

October 26, 2010

CAPITOL INSURANCE COMPANY PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHARLES DVORAK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Before this Court are the Revised Motions to Dismiss of Defendants Alison Dvorak (Doc. No. 34) and Richard Dvorak (Doc. No. 37) and Plaintiff's response in opposition thereto (Docs. Nos. 42, 43). For the reasons set forth in this Memorandum, the Court grants the Motions.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Capitol Insurance Co. has sued a host of individuals and corporations, including Richard and Alison Dvorak, for alleged losses arising from a reinsurance agreement Plaintiff entered into with Aldrostar, S.A. The Defendants include Rampage Marketing Services, Inc., and Newport Resources Management, Inc., two corporations that allegedly represented themselves as the licensed U.S. agent for Aldrostar, S.A.; Aldrostar, Inc., the alleged successor corporation to Aldrostar, S.A.; Charles Dvorak, Doreen Dvorak, Richard Dvorak, and Alison Dvorak, who allegedly represented themselves as officers, shareholders, employees, agents, or servants of the corporate Defendants; and Daniel Samela, CPA, PC, an independent accounting firm that audited Aldrostar, S.A. Plaintiff has asserted claims of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, RICO violation, conspiracy to violate RICO, breach of contract, and professional negligence.

Problematically, Plaintiff's Complaint and responsive brief speak in very broad language (even though more specific pertinent facts should already be known to Plaintiff), repeatedly conflate the alleged actions of the many Defendants (e.g., by using the ambiguous term "Defendants," even though the information to separate the actions should again be in Plaintiff's possession), and seemingly change which causes of action Plaintiff is bringing. It best appears that Plaintiff is suing Alison and Richard Dvorak on all claims except professional negligence.*fn1

Alison and Richard Dvorak have filed identical pro se Revised Motions to Dismiss, providing four grounds for dismissing them from this suit: (1) lack of subject matter jurisdiction,

(2) lack of personal jurisdiction, (3) improper venue, and (4) failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.*fn2

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

It is well-established that, "once the defendant raises the question of personal jurisdiction, the plaintiff bears the burden to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, facts sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction." Carteret Sav. Bank, FA v. Shushan, 954 F.2d 141, 146 (3d Cir. 1992). While "courts reviewing a motion to dismiss a case for lack of in personam jurisdiction must accept all of the plaintiff's allegations as true and construe disputed facts in favor of the plaintiff," id. at 142 n.1, "the plaintiff must sustain its burden . . . through sworn affidavits or other competent evidence." Patterson v. FBI, 893 F.2d 595, 604 (3d Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[A]t no point may a plaintiff rely on the bare pleadings alone in order to withstand a defendant's Rule 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of in personam jurisdiction." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

"Rule 4(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is the starting point [of a personal jurisdiction analysis]. This rule authorizes personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants to the extent permissible under the law of the state where the district court sits." Pennzoil Prods. Co. v. Colelli & Assocs., Inc., 149 F.3d 197, 200 (3d Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted). Pennsylvania's long-arm statute "permits Pennsylvania courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants 'to the constitutional limits of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.'" Id. (citation omitted). "A district court's exercise of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Pennsylvania's long-arm statute is therefore valid as long as it is constitutional." Id.

Plaintiff fails to address the constitutional test, instead focusing on the statutory grant of jurisdiction pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5322. Clearly, however, a court "cannot presume that jurisdiction is proper simply because the requirements of a long-arm statute have been met." Id. at 202.

The constitutional test may be satisfied through the existence of general or specific jurisdiction. "General jurisdiction is based upon the defendant's 'continuous and systematic contacts' with the forum and exists even if the plaintiff's cause of action arises from the defendant's non-forum related activities." Remick v. Manfredy, 238 F.2d 248, 255 (3d Cir. 2001). "Specific jurisdiction exists when the plaintiff's claim is related to or arises out of the defendant's contacts with the forum." Pennzoil, 149 F.3d at 201 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Under the traditional test for specific jurisdiction, "a court must determine whether the defendant had the minimum contacts with the forum necessary for the defendant to have 'reasonably anticipated being haled into court there.'" Id. (quoting World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297 (1980)). "A finding of minimum contacts demands the demonstration of 'some act by which the defendant purposely availed itself of the privilege of conducting business within the forum State, thus invoking the protection and benefits of its laws.'" Id. at 203 (first citation omitted) (quoting Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958)). If "minimum contacts have been established, a court may [then] inquire whether 'the assertion of personal jurisdiction would comport with 'fair play and substantial justice."" Id. at 201 (quoting ...


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