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Randall v. Davin

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 26, 2013

EDWARD RANDALL, an individual d/b/a JAMESON SHAW FINANCIAL SERVICES, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNETH R. DAVIN, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOY FLOWERS CONTI, Chief District Judge.

Pending before the court is Kenneth R. Davin's ("Davin" or "defendant") motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue. (ECF No. 18.) Davin filed a brief in support of the instant motion, (ECF No. 19), and plaintiff Edward Randall ("Randall" or "plaintiff') filed a brief in opposition, (ECF No. 22). The court heard oral argument on the motion on November 26, 2013. For the reasons set forth below, this court denied defendant's motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(1), but granted his motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(2). Thereafter, the court granted defendant's request that the case be transferred to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1406(a). The court did not rule on defendant's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), and advised the parties to raise that motion in the transferee court, in accordance with that court's schedule and procedures, if appropriate.

I. Factual Background

This is a breach of contract case originally filed in May 2013. (ECF No. 1.) Following defendant's filing of a motion to dismiss, (ECF No. 9), plaintiff filed a first amended complaint on August 20, 2013 (ECF No. 13). Defendant again timely filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue. (ECF No. 18.) Plaintiff Randall, d/b/a Jameson Shaw Financial Service, accuses defendant Davin of failing to pay him approximately $500, 000 in commissions, retainers and reimbursable expenses due under a signed letter agreement dated February 14, 2010, and letter amendment dated March 24, 2010. (ECF No. 13-1.) Pursuant to those agreements, plaintiff was to provide investment banking consulting services to defendant with respect to the possible private placement or sale of various companies owned by defendant. (Id.)

The February letter agreement includes a provision entitled "(5) Governing Law; Jurisdiction; Waiver of Jury Trial, " which provides "[t]his Agreement and the Indemnity Agreement will be deemed made in the State of Tennessee and will be governed and construed by The Laws of the State of Tennessee. [Davin] irrevocably submits to the jurisdiction of any circuit or chancery court located in Knox County, Tennessee or the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Tennessee for the purpose of any suit, action or other proceeding arising out of this agreement... which is brought by or against [Davin] in regards to this transaction." (ECF No. 13-1 at 3.) Although the March letter amendment does not include such a provision, the March amendment is derivative of and supplementary to the February agreement.

The complaint consists of two counts: Count I for Breach of Contract and Count II for Quantum Meruit/Unjust Enrichment. (ECF No. 13 at 7-8.) Defendant seeks dismissal of Randall's complaint on four grounds: (1) lack of subject-matter jurisdiction (Rule 12(b)(1)); (2) lack of personal jurisdiction (Rule 12(b)(2)); improper venue (Rule 12(b)(3)); and (4) failure to state a claim (Rule 12(b)(6)). (ECF No. 19 at 3.) In the alternative, Randall asks this court to transfer this case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1406 or 1404(a). (Id.)

II. Legal Standards

A. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

Defendant contends that the allegations of the amended complaint fail to sufficiently allege that Randall is a citizen of Pennsylvania for purposes of establishing diversity jurisdiction. (ECF No. 19 at 4-5.) Specifically, defendant argues that Randall is not a citizen of Pennsylvania because Randall listed his personal residence for sale before filing the initial complaint in this case. (Id.) Davin's argument is without merit.

For purposes of determining diversity jurisdiction, a person is deemed to be a citizen of the state where he is domiciled. 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a); Washington v. Hovensa LLC , 652 F.3d 340, 344 (3d Cir. 2011); Zambelli Fireworks Mfg. Co., Inc. v. Wood , 592 F.3d 412 (3d Cir. 2010). The first amended complaint includes an allegation that Randall is a citizen of Pennsylvania, residing at an address within the jurisdiction of this court. (ECF No. 13 ¶ 1.) Davin's submission of evidence showing that Randall listed his residence for sale earlier this year does not disprove Randall's allegation of citizenship. (ECF No. 19-1.) Even if Randall would have sold his residence, it does not follow that he would have left the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Regardless, plaintiff submitted further evidence, via declaration, in support of his assertion of Pennsylvania citizenship. (ECF No. 22-1.) The declaration attests to Randall's current ownership of property, payment of taxes and registration for purposes of voting and driving in Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶¶ 2-9.) The allegation in the amended complaint, bolstered by this specific evidence, is sufficient to establish that Randall is a citizen of Pennsylvania.

This court has diversity jurisdiction over this matter as it is between a citizen of Pennsylvania and a citizen of Tennessee and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. Davin's motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), is denied.

B. Personal Jurisdiction

Davin next contends that this court cannot constitutionally exercise personal jurisdiction over him because he never purposefully availed himself of the privilege of conducting business in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

On a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), a court is required to accept a plaintiffs allegations as true and construe disputed facts in plaintiffs favor. Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc. , 566 F.3d 324, 330 (3d Cir. 2009). Because federal courts, unlike their state counterparts, are courts of limited jurisdiction, it is incumbent upon the plaintiff to demonstrate that jurisdiction is appropriate. Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger , 437 U.S. 365, 374-75 (1978). "When a defendant raises the defense of the court's lack of personal jurisdiction, the burden falls upon the plaintiff to come forward with sufficient facts to establish that jurisdiction is proper." Mellon Bank (East) PSFS, Nat. Ass'n v. Farino , 960 F.2d 1217, 1223 (3d Cir. 1992); Metcalfe , 566 F.3d at 330. If the plaintiff establishes a prima ...


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