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Doe v. WP Company, LLC

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 12, 2019

JOHN DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
WP COMPANY, LLC, et al, Defendants.

          OPINION

          Mark R. Hornak, Chief United States District Judge

         Plaintiff John Doe, a Pennsylvania resident, after voluntarily dismissing a similar lawsuit in the Central District of California, filed this lawsuit against Defendants who reside in Ohio, Maryland, and Connecticut, alleging various state torts stemming from an alleged sexual assault or consensual group sexual encounter with Plaintiffs spouse in Connecticut. Because this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over any of the Moving Defendants, Plaintiffs Complaint will be dismissed. Additionally, because as the Complaint is written, the Central District of California would not have personal jurisdiction over all of the Moving Defendants, so this Court will not transfer the case to that court as Plaintiff requests.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff John Doe's complaint is 244 paragraphs long. In it, he alleges that on or around July 26-27, 2014, Defendants Gambatese, Beth Tarini, Adam Kilgore, Camille Powell Kilgore, Grossman, Eachus, and Cartellone either sexually assaulted or, in the alternative, participated in a consensual group sexual activity with his wife, Jane Roe #1, while attending a wedding ceremony for Defendant Beth Tarini, hosted by her parents, Defendants Elaine and Anthony Tarini, in Connecticut. Plaintiff did not attend the wedding. He further alleges that his wife, Jane Roe #1, contracted genital herpes as a result of this assault/encounter, and then returned to California and transmitted the sexually transmitted infection ("STI") to him. Plaintiff sustained this alleged injury while living in California. (First Amended Complaint ("FAC" or "Complaint"), ECF No. 36, ¶¶ 2-3, 52.)

         Plaintiff alleges that he has no personal knowledge of what happened in Connecticut, but that he deduced what must have happened from something that Defendant Adam Kilgore said or did when he and Defendant Camille Powell Kilgore visited Plaintiff and Jane Roe #1 in California in November, 2016. Thereafter, while still in California, Plaintiff alleges that he confronted Roe #1 with his suspicions, and that she denied them and threatened to call the police if he did not stop asserting them, but he did not believe her denials. (FAC ¶ 46.) He further alleges that Defendants Adam Kilgore, Camille Powell Kilgore, Beth Tarini, Jason Grossman, and Kevin Smith intruded into private matters by contacting him and his spouse, by telephoning the sheriffs office to request that they check on the house shared by Plaintiff and his spouse, and/or by maintaining a social media platform. (FAC ¶¶ 229-44.)

         Plaintiff moved to Pennsylvania at some time after these events, and currently resides in Westmoreland County, in the Western District of Pennsylvania. (FAC ¶ 29.)

         Plaintiff filed the operative Complaint on March 25, 2019. He asserts 18 Claims in all. Claims 1-5 are against Jane Roe #1, for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Negligence, Battery, Fraud, and Violation of the California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act, respectively. Claims 6-9 are against Jane Roes #3-10 for "Negligence Arising from Rape Culture," Negligent Hiring, Negligent Supervision, and Negligent Retention, respectively.[1] Claim 10 is for Intrusion into Private Matters, against Camille Powell Kilgore, Adam Kilgore, and Beth Tarini. Claim 11 is against Beth, Elaine, and Anthony Tarini, and Jane Roes #3-10, for Negligence. Claim 12 is against Eachus, Cartellone, Grossman, Johnston, Jane Roe #2, Kevin Smith, Gambatese, Adam Kilgore, and Jane Roes #3-10, for "Negligence Arising from Sexual Assault." Claim 13 is against Eachus, Cartellone, Grossman, Steven Johnston, Jane Roe #2, Smith, Gambatese, Adam Kilgore, and Roes #3-10, for Battery. Claim 14 is against Eachus, Cartellone, Grossman, Johnston, Jane Roe #2, Smith, Gambatese, Kilgore, and Jane Roes #3-10, for Fraud. Claim 15 is against Eachus, Cartellone, Grossman, Johnston, Jane Roe #2, Smith, Gambatese, Adam Kilgore, and Roes #3-10, for "Negligence Arising from STD Transmitted Via Sexual Contact." Claim 16 is against Adam Kilgore and Roes #3-10, for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. Claim 17 is against Camille Powell Kilgore and Roes #3-10 for "Aiding and Abetting Tort." Claim 18 is against Grossman, Smith, and Jane Roe #1 for "Intrusion Into Private Matters."

         Defendants Gambatese, Beth Tarini, Anthony Tarini, Elaine Tarini, Adam Kilgore, Camille Powell Kilgore, Grossman, Eachus, and Cartellone (collectively, "Moving Defendants") filed Motions to Dismiss. (Gambatese Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 42; Beth Tarini Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 44; Elaine and Anthony Tarini Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 47 (errata); Kilgore Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 49; Grossman Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 51; Eachus Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 53; Cartellone Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 58.) The Moving Defendants filed briefs in support of their Motions, and Plaintiff filed responsive briefing. The Court has reviewed the Motions, responses, and all briefing in support therein, and the matter is ripe for disposition.[2]

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendants have moved to dismiss on the grounds that Plaintiff has failed to show that the Court has personal jurisdiction over any of the Moving Defendants. Defendants have also moved to dismiss based on improper venue and failure to state a claim, but because the Court concludes it lacks personal jurisdiction over any of the Moving Defendants, it may not consider these alternative arguments.

         A. Legal Standard

         Once a defendant challenges personal jurisdiction, as Defendants have in their Motion to Dismiss, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the Court has jurisdiction. See D'Jamoos v. Pillatus Aircraft Ltd., 566 F.3d 94, 102 (3d Cir. 2009). A plaintiff can satisfy this burden by presenting a prima facie case for the exercise of personal jurisdiction through "specific facts." Marten v. Godwin, 499 F.3d 290, 298 (3d Cir. 2007). Legal conclusions and unsupported allegations will not suffice. See Time Share Vacation Club v. Atl. Resorts, Ltd., 735 F.2d 61, 66 n.9 (3d Cir. 1984) ("Once the motion is made, plaintiff must respond with actual proofs, not mere allegations.").

         The Supreme Court has set forth two types of personal jurisdiction: specific and general. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408 (1984). General personal jurisdiction requires proof of continuous and systematic contacts between the defendant and the forum state. Id. at 415-16; 2 Wright & Miller, Fed. Prac. & Proc. § 1067.5 (4th ed. 2013). To assert general personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, the defendant must have conducted substantial forum-related activity so as to render it "essentially at home in the forum State," Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. at 749 (2014) (quoting Goodyear Dunlop Tire Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564 U.S. 915, 924 (2011)). The Supreme Court has explained that "[t]he 'paradigm' forums in which a corporate defendant is 'at home[]' ... are the corporation's place of incorporation and its principal place of business." BNSF Ry. Co. v. Tyrell, 137 S.Ct. 1549, 1558 (2017) (quoting Daimler, 571 U.S. at 749). "The exercise of general jurisdiction is not limited to these forums; in an 'exceptional case,' a corporate defendant's operations in another forum 'may be so substantial and of such a nature as to render the corporation at home in that State.'" Id. (quoting Daimler, 571 U.S. at 139 n.19).

         Specific jurisdiction, on the other hand, "focuses on the cause of action" rather than the defendant's activities, Dickson Marine Inc. v. Panalpina, Inc., 179 F.3d 331, 339 (5th Cir. 1999). It does not require "continuous and systematic" contacts, bur rather is available when the nonresident defendant has established minimum contacts with the forum state and the cause of action arises out of or relates to those contacts. Miller Yacht Sales, Inc. v. Smith,384 F.3d 93, 96 (3d Cir. 2004). Federal courts evaluate specific jurisdiction by "exam[ining] the relationship among [defendants], the forum, and the litigation." Id. (quoting Pinker,292 F.3d 361, 368 (3d Cir. 2002)). The Third Circuit has articulated a three-part test based on Supreme Court precedent: (1) Did the defendant "purposefully direct[] his activities at residents of the forum"?; (2) does "the litigation result[] from alleged injuries that arise out of or relate to those activities"?; and (3) does the court's exercise of personal jurisdiction "comport with fair play ...


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