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James George Kot v. Honorable Robert K. Killian

December 12, 2011


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


The suit arises from the alleged non-payment of debts the plaintiff incurred while caring for his patient Gaffin Coffin. The plaintiff filed suit pro se on December 15, 2010 and then filed an amended complaint on February 22, 2011. He names six individuals and the Trust Under Indenture Dated April 30, 1957 ("the Trust") as defendants. The six individuals are Wayne Cowell and Christen Rinalid, Bank of America trust administrative officers; Vanessa Avery, a private attorney who provided legal services to Bank of America; The Honorable Robert Killian, the Probate Court Judge for the District of Hartford Connecticut; The Honorable Paul Knierim, the Connecticut Probate Court Administrator; and Glen Coe, a private attorney for Coffin. All of the defendants have filed motions to dismiss. The Court now grants those motions.

In addition, the plaintiff has filed a motion to amend his pleadings by dismissing the Trust and adding unnamed trustees. The plaintiff is permitted to dismiss the Trust, but the Court will deny the motion to add additional defendants. The Court also denies the plaintiff's motion to reconsider an order denying the plaintiff's motion for sanctions.

I. Facts as Alleged in the Plaintiff's Complaint The essence of the plaintiff's claim is that he spent $69,814.98 between May and September of 2010 on behalf of Gavin Coffin, a patient under his care. This money was used for both medical treatment and living expenses. The plaintiff anticipated that he would be paid for these outlays by the Trust, as Coffin is one of its beneficiaries. The Trust has not paid the plaintiff. In addition, Coffin fired the plaintiff, and the plaintiff alleges that a form allowing disclosure of Coffin's medical records was signed under duress and in violation of state privacy law.

The plaintiff alleges that the defendants engaged in constitutional violations, fraud, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy, and RICO violations in the non-payment of these expenses. He asks for monetary relief and the injunctive relief that the Trust be ordered to pay him or that he be provided an opportunity to litigate this suit. In addition, the plaintiff requests appointment of counsel, in part because he states that this is both a criminal and civil case.

II. Analysis

The Court considers separately each of the three motions to dismiss filed in this case and the two motions filed by the plaintiff. The plaintiff has responded to each of the motions; because he is a pro se litigant, the Court also considers arguments on his behalf.

A. The Trust Defendants' Motions to Dismiss Cowell, Rinalid, Avery, and the Trust (the "Trust Defendants" or the "Moving Defendants") filed a motion to dismiss on March 14, 2011 (Docket No. 32). The plaintiff filed a response on May 2, 2011 (Docket No. 41).

The Trust Defendants move to dismiss under 12(b)(1), 12(b)(2), and 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure. The plaintiff has moved to withdraw the Trust itself as a defendant, and is permitted to do so. Therefore, the Court does not address the defendants' arguments to dismiss the Trust. See Section II.D, infra.

Because it is a threshold matter, the Court begins with the Trust Defendants' arguments under Rule 12(b)(1) that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Society Hill Towers Owners' Ass'n v. Rendell, 210 F.3d 168, 175 (3d Cir. 2000).

1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction*fn1

The Trust Defendants argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction under the Princess Lida doctrine, which "prevents a court in which an action is filed from exercising jurisdiction when a court in a previously filed action is exercising control over the property at issue and the second court must exercise control over the same property in order to grant the relief sought." Dailey v. Nat'l Hockey League, 987 F.2d 172, 175 (3d Cir. 1993). Princess Lida is a "mechanical rule" that applies if the requisite showing is made that: 1. the litigation in both fora is in rem or quasi in rem, and 2. the relief sought requires the second court to exercise control over property already under control of the first court. Id. at 176.

Although the plaintiff is contesting non-payment by the Trust, he has brought suit against individuals beyond those who administer the Trust. Possible relief granted by this Court could come from those individuals or could simply identify the plaintiff's right to funds from the Trust. Because the plaintiff seeks only "the right . . . to participate in the res or as to the quantum of his interest in it," the Court is not convinced that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction under the Princess Lida doctrine. Princess Lida of Thurn & Taxis v. Thompson, 305 U.S. 456, 467 (1939).

The Trust Defendants also argue that the Court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the Younger doctrine. This doctrine says that federal courts should not interfere with pending state judicial proceedings unless extraordinary circumstances exist for doing so. Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971).

Abstention is "an extraordinary and narrow exception to the duty of a District Court to adjudicate a controversy properly before it" which "rarely should be invoked." Gwynedd Props., Inc. v. Lower Gwynedd Twp., 970 F.2d 1195, 1199 (3d Cir. 1992) (quoting Ankenbrandt v. Richards, 504 U.S. 689, 705 (1992)). Because of the breadth of the claims raised by the plaintiff against individuals not involved ...

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