United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
A. RICHARD CAPUTO, District Judge.
Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction or alternatively to Transfer Venue (Doc. 4) filed by Defendant Nancy Olsen Norton ("Defendant"). Defendant contends that Plaintiff Karin Lyn Cavanaugh ("Plaintiff")'s Complaint should be dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction or in the alternative, transferred to the Northern District of Illinois. Because Plaintiff has failed to meet her burden of demonstrating that the Court may exercise personal jurisdiction over Defendant, Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted.
The facts as alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 1) are as follows: Plaintiff Karin Lyn Cavanaugh is a resident of Pennsylvania and Defendant Nancy Olsen Norton is a resident of Illinois. ( Compl., Doc. 1, ¶¶ 1-2.) Plaintiff is Defendant's niece. Id. at ¶ 3.
Plaintiff and Defendant are owners of an investment brokerage account ("Account") currently held by Lantern Investments, Inc. ("Lantern"), located in Melville, NY. Id. at ¶ 6. As of April 24, 2013, the Account balance was $1, 436, 163.90, and the Account is held by Plaintiff and Defendant as Joint Tenants With Right of Survivorship ("JTWROS"). Id. at ¶¶ 7-8. The Account was established and funded by Ruth Olsen, who is Plaintiff's grandmother and Defendant's Mother. Id. at ¶ 9.
Although Plaintiff and Defendant have both been "titled owners" of the account since about April 1988, Plaintiff first became aware of the existence of the account in 2005 in connection with Defendant's "request to transfer all assets and all cash' from the Account into a separate account" to the exclusion of Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 10-11. Plaintiff did not consent to the requested transfer and the account remained titled in both names as JTWROS. Id. at ¶ 12. In or around December 2013, Defendant requested that "all cash and securities' from the Account be transferred to a new account registered solely in the name of Nancy Olsen.'" Id. at ¶ 14. Again, Plaintiff did not consent to the requested transfer. Id. at ¶ 15.
Prior to December 2012, Plaintiff was under the incorrect impression that either party could withdraw funds from the account individually based on account statements she received since 2005 documenting numerous withdrawals made by Defendant, completed without Plaintiff's knowledge or consent. Id. at ¶16. To protect her interests, in December 2012 Plaintiff attempted to withdraw an amount equal to one-half of the account balance plus one-half of the estimated amount of Defendant's prior withdrawals. Id. at ¶18-19. Plaintiff learned however, that neither she nor Defendant could withdraw funds in her own name without the other's knowledge and consent, and that disbursements from the Account are made payable to both Plaintiff and Defendant and require the signature of both parties. Id. at ¶ 19.
In or about December 2012, Plaintiff learned from Liberty that numerous checks made payable to both her and Defendant had been drawn from the Account at the request of Defendant. Id. at ¶ 20. Each of these checks was delivered to Defendant, and Defendant forged, "by herself or through an agent, " Plaintiff's name on them. Id. at ¶¶ 22-24. From January 21, 2011 to the present, no less than twelve (12) checks made payable to both Plaintiff and Defendant have been requested and delivered to Defendant in Illinois. Id. at ¶ 25. The total amount of these checks is $243, 617.35. Id. at ¶ 27. Plaintiff did not authorize or consent to Defendant signing her name on any of these checks. Id. at ¶¶ 28-29.
From October 12, 2000 to June 24, 2008, no less than seventy-six (76) checks have been drawn from the account at Defendant's request, on information and belief, and made payable to both Plaintiff and Defendant and delivered to Defendant. Id. at ¶ 30-32. The amount of these checks is $294, 288.66. Id. at ¶ 34. Plaintiff did not consent to or authorize Defendant to sign her name on any of these checks. Id. at ¶¶ 35-36.
On information and belief, on or about August 7, 2006, Defendant obtained a wire transfer of funds in the amount of $41, 000 from the Account for her own use and benefit. Id. at ¶ 37. Plaintiff did not authorize Defendant to request the wire transfer or consent to Defendant receiving the wire transfer. Id. at ¶¶ 39-40. From June 25, 2008 to October 6, 2010 no less than nine (9) checks have been drawn from the account at Defendant's request. Id. at ¶ 41. On information and belief, these checks were made payable to both Plaintiff and Defendant and were delivered to Defendant. Id. at ¶¶ 42-43. The total amount of these checks is $107, 313.29. Id. at ¶ 45. Plaintiff did not authorize or consent to Defendant signing her name on any of the checks. Id. at ¶¶ 46-47.
On information and belief, the total dollar amount of checks and wire transfers delivered to Defendant from the account, all of which were made payable to both Plaintiff and Defendant, from October 2000 to the present equals or exceeds $686, 219.30. Id. at ¶ 48. Plaintiff asserts that she did not see or otherwise have knowledge that checks delivered to Defendant were made payable to both her and Defendant until in or about December 2012. Id. at ¶ 51. Plaintiff contends that Defendant's signing of Plaintiff's name on the checks was fraudulent and constituted a forgery and that her actions were in bad faith and for the purpose of depriving Plaintiff of use of title to such funds and to provide Defendant with exclusive use of and title to such funds. Id. at ¶¶ 52-54.
As a result of the foregoing events, Plaintiff commenced this action against Defendant on April 30, 2013. In Count I, labeled "Accounting, " Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's actions converted the account from JTWROS to a Joint Tenancy in Common, and that Plaintiff is entitled to no less than one-half of the amount converted by Defendant, one-half of the amount remaining in the account, and a reasonable return on her investment for the funds improperly withdrawn and converted by Defendant. Id. at ¶¶ 59-60. In Count II, labeled "Bad Faith and Fraudulent Conversion, " Plaintiff further asserts that Defendant's requests for the checks were unauthorized, fraudulent, and deceitful and that Defendant has committed fraud on Lantern, each of the banks into which she deposited the forged checks, and Plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 62, 67. On June 27, 2013 Defendant filed her motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction (Doc. 4). This motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.
While the Court can accept a plaintiff's allegations regarding jurisdiction as true for purposes of the motions to dismiss, "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 ...